Shame, Stigma Integral to Logic of Sexual Violence as War Tactic, Special Adviser Tells Security Council, as Speakers Demand Recognition for Survivors

SC/12819
15 May 2017
7938th Meeting (AM)

Shame, Stigma Integral to Logic of Sexual Violence as War Tactic, Special Adviser Tells Security Council, as Speakers Demand Recognition for Survivors

Words, Laws, Resolutions Will Mean Nothing if Violations Go Unpunished in Practice, Deputy Secretary-General Stresses

Shame and stigma were integral to the logic of using sexual violence as a tactic of war, torture or terrorism, the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide told the Security Council today, amid demands that survivors be recognized as legitimate victims of conflict entitled to equality before the law as well as reparations.

“Aggressors understand that this crime attacks individual and collective identity, social relationships and status,” said Adama Dieng, who is also the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.  Victims who might survive rape often did not survive its social repercussions, he noted, adding that many were literally dying of shame, foregoing medical and legal help in order to avoid humiliation.

“Simply stated, stigma kills,” he said, pressing the Council to redirect the stigma of sexual violence from victim to perpetrator.  To foster deterrence, justice must be done — and be perceived to have been done — in both the courtroom and the community, he emphasized.  Sexual violence should be addressed in actions to curb financial flows to terrorist groups, while support for reintegration, especially for women and girls who had escaped Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab, must infuse all peacebuilding and recovery efforts, he said, declaring:  “Peace begins with peace of mind.”

Also addressing the Council was Mina Jaf, founder of the non-governmental organization Women’s Refugee Route, who agreed that stigma prevented many survivors from reporting abuse and seeking justice.  She said she had founded Women’s Refugee Route because humanitarian responses to refugee populations were largely gender-blind.  There was also a lack of trained women interpreters, volunteers and specialized service providers to help survivors, she said, adding that, time and time again, she had seen humanitarian agencies implement standardized programmes rather than adapt responses to the needs of survivors.

Urging the Council and Member States to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as fundamental to all efforts to prevent and address sexual violence in conflict, she said they should also ensure that the draft Global Compact for Refugees, to be completed in 2018, was progressive for refugee women and girls by making sure that assistance was not subjected to donor limitations, such as denial of sexual and reproductive health care.

The Council also heard from Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, who said sexual violence was now rightly viewed globally as a legitimate threat to peace requiring an operational security and justice response.  As extremists in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, Mali and elsewhere used it to advance their military, economic and ideological ends, there was a need for the protection and empowerment of women and girls to feature throughout the counter-terrorism architecture.

She said the Secretary-General had laid out recommendations in his latest report (document S/2017/249), including a proposal that the Council engage with parties to conflict with the aim of gaining protection commitments and deploying women protection advisers.  “We have a solemn responsibility to convert a centuries-old culture of impunity into a culture of accountability and deterrence,” she emphasized.  “All our words and laws and resolutions will mean nothing if violations go unpunished in practice, and if we fail in our sacred duty to care for survivors.”

In the ensuing debate, speakers described the deep physical and psychological trauma caused by rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced marriage and other forms of sexual violence that shredded the fabric of communities around the world.  They condemned such abuse, whether perpetrated by terrorist groups, State actors or United Nations peacekeepers.  Japan’s representative, like many others, expressed strong support for the zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse and exploitation by the Organization’s peacekeepers, as well as efforts to realize that policy on the ground.

Several speakers called for engaging traditional religious leaders in the fight against stigma, with Senegal’s representative also stressing the need for cooperation with women’s organizations.  Bolivia’s representative emphasized that it was important for women to be in charge of their own bodies, describing efforts to deny them that control as the expression of a patriarchal system.

Describing children born of sexual violence as “invisible” victims since birth, Uruguay’s Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs pointed out that they were denied the right to a name and faced lives of rejection and exclusion.

The United Kingdom’s representative called for more women at negotiating tables, advocating the inclusion of measures to end sexual violence in all ceasefire agreements.  It was crucial to acknowledge that both terrorists and State actors committed “sick acts” when the Council’s own inaction enabled them to do so, he said, underlining that votes, including the veto, had a “very real bearing”.

However, the Russian Federation’s representative cautioned against linking sexual violence with either the maintenance of international peace and security or the prevention of conflict.  Citing attempts to foster a broad interpretation of the fight against sexual violence, he said the latest report was fraught with examples of terminology that exceeded the Council’s mandate.  Sexual violence as a war crime must be separated from sexual violence as a criminal act unrelated to the parties in conflict, he stressed.

Also speaking today were representatives of Sweden, United States, France, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Egypt, China, Italy, Kazakhstan, Spain, Nigeria, Switzerland, Rwanda, Peru, Liechtenstein, Iran, Pakistan, Brazil, Canada (for the Group of Friends on Women, Peace and Security), Hungary, Estonia, Chile, Ireland, Guatemala, Poland, Bangladesh, Colombia, Argentina, Norway (for the Nordic countries), Panama, Turkey, Lithuania, Mexico, Sudan, Costa Rica, Germany, India, Czech Republic, Belgium, Republic of Korea, Tunisia, Albania, Netherlands, Syria, Portugal, Côte d’Ivoire, Venezuela, Indonesia, Ghana, South Africa, Israel, Malaysia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Morocco, Cambodia, Maldives, Sierra Leone and Djibouti, as well as of the European Union, Holy See and African Union.

The meeting began at 10:39 a.m. and ended at 6:54 p.m.

Opening Remarks

AMINA J. MOHAMED, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the deep silence that had traditionally shrouded crimes of sexual violence was finally breaking, giving way to greater visibility and political will.  “Global understanding of this scourge is shifting,” she said, adding that it was rightly viewed as a legitimate threat to peace and security requiring an operational security and justice response.  The robust existing legislative framework included a series of Council resolutions that provided new tools to drive change.  Some accountability at the international and national levels had led to a gradual shift from a reality in which committing rape during conflict had been cost-free to one in which there would be consequences for anyone who committed, commanded or condoned such crimes, she said.  More Governments were committing to action, while regional groups were working with the United Nations in such efforts.

However, the reality remained dire for many, including those in South Sudan, where sexual violence was a weapon of choice and a tactic of war, she continued.  Such abuse was also being perpetrated by extremists in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria and Mali to advance their military, economic and ideological ends.  The same litany of horrors echoed the accounts of Yazidi captives of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), the Nigerian girls who had fled Boko Haram, the tales of Somali women liberated from Al-Shabaab and the depictions of women’s lives in northern Mali under Ansar Eddine, she said, emphasizing: “These groups are using sexual violence for strategic purposes,” obscenely incentivizing recruitment with the promise of wives and sex slaves.  There was an essential need to feature the protection and empowerment of women and girls in the counter-terrorism architecture, she stressed, while also underlining the major challenge of enforcing compliance with international law among non-State armed actors.  The Secretary-General was focused on gaining protection commitments from parties listed annually in his reports on sexual violence and children in armed conflict.

She said the migration crisis and the massive displacement of people due to protracted conflicts heightened the risk of sexual violence — especially among refugees and internally displaced persons — not only within camps or settlements, but at every stage of displacement.  It could also be driving people from their homes.  The United Nations response had been undermined by unacceptable incidents of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers, she noted, insisting:  “The Secretary-General and all of us are determined to tackle this challenge head-on.”  Sexual violence was uniquely heart-wrenching in that perpetrators often escaped justice, while victims were often forced to live with the shame of having been raped, rejected by their families and communities.  Depression, flashbacks and fear were just some of the long-term impacts, she said, adding that pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases were common.  Recalling the release of 82 schoolgirls held captive for the past three years after Boko Haram kidnapped 270 of them in Chibok, Nigeria, in April 2014, she said thousands remained missing around the world.

“We must continue to demand relentlessly for their return” to environments of support, equality and opportunity, psychosocial counselling and emergency reproductive health care, she emphasized.  Social and economic reintegration was imperative and must become integral to reconstruction efforts, transitional justice and post-conflict development.  The Security Council had played a pivotal role in charting a path towards accountability and prevention, but more was required to eradicate the crime, she said, noting that the Secretary-General laid out recommendations in his report, including on the Council’s support for engagement with parties to conflict with the aim of gaining protection commitments, and accelerated deployment of women protection advisers to catalyse implementation of that agenda on the ground.  “We have a solemn responsibility to convert a centuries-old culture of impunity into a culture of accountability and deterrence,” she emphasized, declaring: “All our words and laws and resolutions will mean nothing if violations go unpunished in practice, and if we fail in our sacred duty to care for survivors.”  There must be a commitment to replace horror with hope.

ADAMA DIENG, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, welcomed efforts to bring the crime of sexual violence out of the shadows and into the centre of peace and security policy.  Describing the Secretary-General’s report as harrowing in its depiction of sexual violence as a tactic of war and terrorism, a tool of dehumanization and a form of punishment, he said it shed light on the use of sexually enslaved women and girls as suicide bombers and human shields, or as currency for compensating fighters, as if women were expendable resources in the machinery of terrorism.

“Behind every number presented in the report, there is a story, a face and a name,” he said, recounting the experiences of an Iraqi girl so afraid of returning home from ISIL captivity that she had attempted suicide.  In another case, a girl kidnapped by Boko Haram had fallen pregnant through rape, a local militia had told her they would kill her “Boko Haram baby”.  Sexual violence could turn victims into social outcasts, fracturing families and corroding community structures, he said, adding that fear and cultural stigma prevented most survivors from ever coming forward.  “Simply stated, stigma kills,” he said, emphasizing that victims often survived rape, but not its social repercussions, often foregoing medical and legal help to avoid the humiliation.

Shame and stigma were integral to the logic of rape when used as a war tactic, he continued, explaining that aggressors understood that the crime attacked individual and collective identity, social relationships and status.  “There is a need to redirect the stigma of sexual violence from the victim to the perpetrator” and to recognize survivors as victims of conflict and terrorism entitled to relief and equality before the law, he said.  The Council had rejected the idea of rape as an inevitable by-product of war, and it was important to address stigma as both a human rights and security emergency.  The aim must go beyond merely minimizing stigma to restoring respect for survivors, which would entail mobilizing the moral authority of traditional and religious leaders to shift harmful social norms.

He went on to state that stigma and victim-blaming were compounded by a historical absence of accountability.  Yet each verdict inspired another survivor to come forward and each sentence deterred another would-be perpetrator, which over time could convert cultures of impunity into cultures of deterrence.  Justice, not simply law, must be delivered, he said, stressing the need for restorative, reparative justice.  To foster deterrence, justice must be done — and be perceived as having been done — not only in the courtroom, but also in the community.  Despite landmark convictions in the Bemba case — which centred on command responsibility for sexual violence — rape was far less likely to be reported to police than any other physical assault, he noted.  For survivors living in the midst of their attackers, justice delayed was more than justice denied; it was terror continued.  “Slow justice is no justice,” he emphasized citing examples from the Yazidi community, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

While underlining the primary responsibility of Governments to protect their people, he said the response to sexual violence must be multisectoral and holistic, noting that loss of infrastructure and expertise due to conflict dramatically weakened that response.  The Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict working from the Office of the Special Representative offered technical support to bolster institutional capacity, he said, citing their work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire.  Pointing out that 2017 marked the first de-listing of the Forces armeés de Côte d’Ivoire, providing an example for other armies in terms of meeting requirements set out in resolutions 1960 (2010) and 2106 (2013), he emphasized the need to work with national and regional security bodies to advance implementation of resolution 2331 (2016) on detecting and disrupting the trafficking of persons in conflict situations for the purpose of sexual exploitation, which would require more sharing of information and judicial cooperation.

Sexual violence should be addressed in a global discourse and in actions to curb financial flows to terrorist groups, he said.  At the same time, the Council must be conscious of the shrinking space for civil society, paying greater attention to “red flags” for conflict-related sexual violence in early-warning and response efforts.  Root causes, such as economic and physical insecurity, must be examined, and support for socioeconomic reintegration support — including for women and girls who had escaped ISIL, Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab — must infuse all peacebuilding and recovery efforts.  “Peace begins with peace of mind,” he said, emphasizing that those liberated from sexual slavery should never again face stigma — a fate that some described as “living death”.  They must instead be provided with psychosocial, livelihood and legal support, he said, stressing that the State must recognize them as victims and treat them as intelligence assets.  “We now need sustained political resolve and resources equal to the scale of this challenge,” he added.

MINA JAF, speaking on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, said she had been born a refugee during the chemical gas attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan and, thanks to her mother, had also been born a feminist.  Describing sexual violence as a gendered crime used to shame, exert power and reinforce gender norms, she said it sustained fear and insecurity, and the associated stigma prevented many survivors from reporting abuse and seeking justice.  There was need for gender-sensitive support for refugees, as well as for tailored programmes for all at-risk populations, including refugees with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals, men and boys.

She said she had founded Women’s Refugee Route upon realizing that international humanitarian responses to refugee populations were largely gender-blind.  There was a lack of trained women interpreters, volunteers and specialized service providers to deal with survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, she noted, recalling that a 16-year-old gang-rape victim in Greece had rejected her advice to report the crime, asking what the point was if the system would not protect her.  Although there were existing tools and guidelines for protecting displaced women and girls from gender-based violence, political will was needed to implement them consistently, she said.  LGBTI refugees faced increased risk of discrimination and violence compared to the larger refugee population, and many did not disclose their sexual orientation to service providers for fear of more violence.

Time and time again, she had seen humanitarian agencies implementing standardized programmes instead of adapting their responses to the needs of survivors, she continued, urging the Security Council and Member States should promote gender equality and empowerment of women and girls as fundamental to all efforts to prevent and address sexual violence in conflict.  They should also support the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-based violence in Emergencies and ensure that the Global Compact for Refugees, which would be completed in 2018, was progressive for refugee women and girls.  It should see that assistance was in compliance with international humanitarian law and was not subjected to donor limitations, including denial of sexual and reproductive health care, such as abortion, she said.  It was not enough to condemn acts of sexual violence in conflict; it should be stopped and its perpetrators brought to justice.

Statements

JOSE LUIS CANCELA, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uruguay and Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity in associating his delegation with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security.  Describing sexual violence as a direct attack on dignity, the right to freedom, to honour and to life, he said it was typified as torture when carried out by the State itself.  Although resolution 1325 (2000) had strengthened the normative framework, sexual violence — including rape, sex slavery, prostitution, forced marriage, pregnancy, abortion and forced sterilization — became a tactic of war when used systematically, he said, citing ISIL, Boko Haram, Al-Nusra and others who used sexual violence in that manner.  Prevention and early warning were essential, he said, pressing the international community to devise rapid, coordinated and comprehensive responses.

He called for empowering women and addressing the structural foundations of discrimination by ensuring women had access to education, work and decision-making powers, especially for the mediation, prevention and resolution of conflict.  As seen in the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), women were “generators of confidence” within communities, she said.  Attention must also be paid to the reintegration of victims, with medical and psychological help, including sexual and reproductive health services.  Noting that men could also be victims, he said girls and boys born of sexual violence were “invisible” victims since birth, denied the right to a name and facing lives of rejection and exclusion.  Encouraging the reporting of such crimes, he stressed that States must ensure that perpetrators were brought to justice, including through the International Criminal Court, to which the Council must refer such crimes.

PETER HULTQVIST, Minister for Defence of Sweden, called for expressions of outrage to be transformed into decisive action to end sexual violence in conflict, pointing out its long-term damage to individuals and societies.  Calling also for a comprehensive rights-based approach focused on the needs and experiences of victims, and holding their tormentors accountable, he emphasized that improved data was essential to making the issue a priority in terms of monitoring implementation of Council mandates.  All tools, including sanctions, must be used to combat sexual violence in conflict, and the number of women peacekeepers, police and corrections officers must be increased.  Sweden had targets in place for that purpose and sought to ensure that a gender perspective was integrated into all international operations in conflict and post-conflict situations, including counter-terrorism operations, he said, stressing the need for leadership at all levels to change societal norms.

MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said that rape, alongside guns and mortars, was used as a weapon of war to force communities either to surrender or flee.  Reports of such actions had not moved the Security Council to respond, she said, noting that it should focus on condemning the impact of sexual violence on peace and security.  In South Sudan, rape was being used as a tool for ethnic cleansing and a tactic of war, she said, pointing out that it was committed in front of audiences, including family members and children.  She also cited a refugee fleeing South Sudan, who had described how soldiers had ordered her and other women out of their vehicle and to remove their clothes and lie down.  The children present had seen their mothers raped, she said, emphasizing that, in responding to sexual violence, the Council must seek accountability, while courts and law enforcement must provide justice for victims.  Empowering women to build and maintain peace was an essential element of prevention, she stressed.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), noting that women remained the primary victims of violence during conflict, said Boko Haram’s actions provided examples of extreme violence against women and children.  Terrorist groups used sexual violence as a weapon of war and a means of recruitment, he said, adding that in Syria, rape and forced prostitution affected women and children in particular.  In addition, ISIL had created a market in which they sold minority women and children into sexual slavery.  Such actions constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity, and the groups committing them should be held accountable, he emphasized.  Armed groups also used sexual violence as a weapon of war — in South Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example — as a way to terrorize communities and punish religious and ethnic groups, he added.

YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine), strongly advocating zero tolerance of sexual violence and associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union delegation, emphasized the need to ensure accountability for crimes and to address deeply-rooted gender inequalities.  All cases of rape must be reported, he said, emphasizing that comprehensive support for victims was imperative.  Ukrainian authorities were committed to acting on the recommendations of a new report describing the sexual abuse of persons detained by armed groups supported by Russia, he said, adding that the report laid out steps to be taken by stakeholders at all levels.  He joined the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in condemning the sexual harassment of a female member of that regional body’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said the Council must ensure implementation of recommendations, notably by assigning protection advisers, and exert pressure on all parties to conflict to comply with international humanitarian law, especially in relation to civilian protection.  State implementation of international, regional and other instruments would also foster a more effective response, he said, while emphasizing the need to enhance the capacity of peacekeeping missions to address sexual violence by hiring more women and providing gender-sensitive pre-deployment training, as well as involving more women in preventing conflict and in peacebuilding efforts.  It was also important to build institutional judicial capacity, he added.  Addressing the root causes of conflict would do most to address sexual violence, he stressed, adding that global and regional partnerships should be an important part of the international response.  The African Union had demonstrated its commitment to fighting impunity for conflict-related sexual violence, he said, strongly condemning sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers, while pledging that Ethiopia would implement the United Nations zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) called for promoting women’s participation in political processes by investing in training and capacity-building programmes, as well as by disseminating information about women’s contributions.  It was important to include sexual violence in national training for peacekeepers, he said, noting that a Cairo centre dedicated to resolving conflicts in Africa had organized 12 courses on gender in peacekeeping and peacebuilding, in addition to peace sessions for police and civilian staff.  It was important to build national institutional capacity and to launch the United Nations initiative to combat sexual violence, he said, expressing support for the United Nations zero tolerance policy.  Egypt urged support for religious and national leaders in raising awareness of the need to fight stigma, he emphasized.

WU HAITAO (China), describing the international security situation as “grim”, said terrorist activities were rampant and women and children in conflict were under threat of sexual violence.  Emphasizing that the international community should resolve conflicts through peaceful means, he said it must ensure the full participation of women in peacekeeping efforts.  National capacities to combat sexual violence in conflict should be increased to ensure protection of women and children.  The international community should respect the sovereignty of the countries concerned, and facilitate implementation of the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions on women, peace and security.  China urged United Nations peacekeeping operations to continue the zero-tolerance policy on sexual violence committed by peacekeepers.

ABDOULAYE BARRO (Senegal) said that victims of sexual violence had often been denied access to justice due to lateness in criminalizing such actions and inability to provide medical or psychological assistance to victims.  The collective conscience was struck by growing violent extremism and trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation, he said.  In the context of prevention, it was essential to ensure cooperation with women’s organizations and both traditional and religious leaders, who could help to devise strategic communications.  Emphasizing that no political or military leader was above the law, he said there was need to enhance the protection of civilians and to support victims of sexual violence.  Peace agreements should reflect concerns about sexual violence so that survivors could have access to reparations, he said, welcoming the zero-tolerance United Nations policy against sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) said that the current crisis in the Middle East had taken an abhorrent form and that women were the main victims of terrorism and violent extremism inspired by takfiri ideology.  In that light, he strongly condemned the attacks of ISIL/Da’esh and its offshoots.  He stated that foreign intervention and occupation had also led to the collapse of families, leaving little room for women’s empowerment.  Sanctions, a form of collective punishment, violated basic human rights, as did what he called the brutal occupation of Palestinian land by the Israeli regime and the blockade of the Gaza Strip.  He called it unfortunate, in addition, that women and girls were disproportionate victims of air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.  He stressed that organizing meetings such as today’s in the Council should not undermine the work of the most relevant bodies for women-related issues, including the General Assembly, the Commission on the Status of Women and the Economic and Social Council.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) emphasized the importance of women being in charge of their own bodes, describing efforts to exert control over them as the expression of a patriarchal system seen daily when women and children were used as human shields in armed conflict.  According to the Genocide in Rwanda programme, between 100,000 and 150,000 women had been raped during that atrocity, while the Secretary-General’s report noted that women and children made up 80 per cent of those displaced.  Bolivia urged a focus on prevention and on the rights to truth, justice and reparations.  On prevention, he called for strengthening mechanisms intended to provide security for women and girls.  The relationship between sexual violence and human trafficking was also important, he noted, urging States to ratify the founding Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  It recognized sexual violence as a war crime and a crime against humanity, he noted, stressing that perpetrators must not go unpunished.

EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) cautioned against linking sexual violence with either the maintenance of international peace and security or the prevention of conflict.  Emphasizing the need to ensure accountability, he said progress could be made through cooperation with the Governments of countries in which conflict situations occurred.  No less important was the need for dialogue with traditional and religious leaders about rehabilitating victims.  He strongly condemned sexual violence by terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq and called for efforts to destroy the “shadow economy” of ISIL and other groups earning income from sexual slavery.  Citing attempts to foster a broad interpretation of the fighting against sexual violence, he said the latest report on the subject was fraught with examples of terminology exceeding the Council’s mandate.  Sexual violence as a war crime must be separated from sexual violence as a criminal act unrelated to the parties in conflict, he emphasized.  Noting that both the concept note and the Secretary-General’s report discussed sexual violence by extremists, such as ISIL, he stressed that other terrorist entities must also be explicitly described as such.  Doing otherwise only created a double standard, which was unacceptable, he said, stating:  “Let’s not create any ambiguity.”  In a context of armed conflict, international humanitarian law must also be discussed, he continued, adding that Governments and non-State actors alike must ensure that norms against sexual violence were upheld, since shifting the balance would lead to duplication of efforts.  Additionally, he noted that entities lacking the necessary competency had prepared reports on sexual violence in conflict, citing a document containing information on rape and other crimes by Ukrainian forces.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said the need to combat sexual violence in armed conflict was a message “that should not need repeating in this Council”.  Council members on the recent mission to Africa had seen the effects of sexual violence with their own eyes, he said, urging them never to forget the stories they had heard while visiting a dusty camp for internally displaced persons in northern Nigeria.  Still, not enough was being done, he said, pointing out that victims in Mali were forced to withdraw complaints in order to help perpetrators avoid accountability.  In Syria, not a single person had been convicted in connection with the use of rape by Da’esh, he added.  “We need fewer women at kitchen tables and more women at negotiating tables,” he emphasized, calling for the inclusion of measures to end sexual violence in all ceasefire agreements.  In that regard, the United Kingdom had worked with members of civil society members and other stakeholders to produce an international protocol on the issue and was now working on a tool — to be presented at the General Assembly — intended to tackle stigma.  It was also crucial to acknowledge that both terrorists and State actors committed “sick acts” when the Council’s own inaction enabled them to do so, he said, underlining that votes, including the veto, had a “very real bearing”.  He called upon the Council to address the topic of sexual violence in every single meeting where it was relevant, including its upcoming review of Al-Qaida sanctions.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) described conflict-related sexual violence as one of the most devastating forms of hostility against civilians.  Recent developments had deepened concerns, particularly in relation to the widespread and systematic use of sexual violence by terrorist and extremist groups, and the increase in flows of people fleeing conflict at the risk of falling prey to human traffickers.  Preventing sexual and gender-based violence required a strong legal framework and solid institutions, he emphasized, adding that, in terms of accountability, the International Criminal Court provided an important anchor.  The Security Council, with its relevant sanctions committees and other subsidiary entities, should expand its designation criteria for perpetrators of sexual violence in the context of armed conflict or terrorism, he emphasized.  Victims of sexual violence were affected by stigma, which was why that crime often remained “invisible”, he explained.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) said that sexual violence must be addressed in all its dimensions through multi-level interventions coordinated by international organizations.  Prevention, accountability for crimes, awareness of the issues and empowerment of women were among the many goals that must be pursued in a comprehensive effort.  States bore the primary responsibility for responding to sexual violence in a manner harmonized with international standards, he said, noting that his country had joined the relevant codes of conduct and called upon others to abide by international rule-of-law principles and ensure compliance with all Council resolutions.  Designated sanctions should be imposed on those failing to comply with international human rights law and there should be zero tolerance of any abuse by security personnel or peacekeepers.  Victims should enjoy comprehensive medical support and reintegration into their communities.

HIROSHI MINAMI (Japan), expressed concern that terrorist groups continued to perpetrate sexual violence as a tactic of war and terrorism, emphasizing that the Security Council must be briefed in a timely manner on sexual violence in conflict.  Japan strongly supported the zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse and exploitation throughout the United Nations system, as well as all efforts to realize that policy on the ground, he said, noting that there were definite limitations to methods of dealing with sexual violence issues at the national level.  The importance of cross-border cooperation should be emphasized, he added.  As a leading supporter of the Special Representative’s Team of Experts and their work with the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Somalia, Japan encouraged other Member States also to work with it, he said, noting that the team was funded solely through voluntary contributions.

MICHAEL GRANT (Canada), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, an informal network of 53 Member States, expressed outrage over sexual violence in armed conflict by State and non-State actors.  A climate of impunity discouraged reporting, undermined assistance and abetted further violations.  Addressing sexual violence in conflict must be seen as a means of conflict prevention, and he thus called for accountability.  The investigation and documentation of sexual violence in armed conflict was vital to ensuring justice.  While there were several accountability mechanisms in place, justice depended on adequate legal and evidentiary frameworks to prosecute such crimes.  International accountability mechanisms and Council sanction regimes must be mandated and resourced to investigate sexual violence in conflict.  Further, accountability and prevention of sexual violence should be included in peace agreements, with multisectoral support for survivors.  Societies, including traditional and religious leaders, must support survivors and declare that shame rested on perpetrators.

Speaking in his national capacity, he expressed outrage at the scale and scope of sexual violence in conflict.  Its systematic use as a weapon of war demanded an effective and timely response.  “Member States cannot simply decry sexual violence without taking actions within their power to assist survivors,” he said, stressing that Canada would work to prevent such acts.  While men were the main perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict, they were also victims and it was imperative that the United Nations and States ensure that any gender analysis considered that aspect, he said, expressing deep concern over sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations staff, peacekeepers and non-United Nations forces.

The representative of Spain said the next five years would provide an historic opportunity to make the prevention of atrocities such as sexual violence a key priority in the work of the United Nations.  “This goal is not exclusively in the hands of any one of us,” he said, urging the Council to consider what it could do in the immediate future, and what the wider United Nations membership could contribute.  Recalling that Spain had supported the Council’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2331 (2016) — which added new elements such as terrorism and stigma to the growing body of international norms and standards relating to sexual violence — he called for the appropriate mandating and training of all mediators, negotiators, police officials and other personnel deployed by the United Nations.  Meanwhile, working with civil society to develop early-warning mechanisms remained “the best investment we can make” to the prevention of sexual violence, she said, urging Member States to be guided by the need to combat impunity, provide support and reparations to victims and increase women’s participation in the peace and security sector and at negotiating tables.

SOLA ENIKANOLAIYE, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, condemned in the strongest terms the abduction, trafficking and  mistreatment of women and girls by extremist groups, including the heinous activities of Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region, particularly north-eastern Nigeria.  Priority must be accorded to addressing enabling environments and underlying root causes of conflict, such as poverty, hunger, human rights abuses, injustice, unemployment, corruption, lack of inclusiveness and impunity, he said, adding that the prevalence of weak justice systems should be addressed and the political economy of conflict tackled in a more holistic manner.  Noting that Boko Haram’s terrorist activities had led to the displacement of about 2 million people and resulted in violence against women and girls, he described efforts by the Government of Nigeria, alongside the United Nations, to ensure accountability, improve service delivery and enhance protection measures.  Among other measures, it had undertaken steps to reduce the vulnerability of women and girls in camps for the internally displaced located within Nigeria, and was working to de-radicalize convicted terrorists as part of its efforts to counter violent extremism, he said.

NATHALIE VÉRONIQUE CHUARD (Switzerland) said the unanimous adoption of resolution 2331 (2016) indicated recognition of conflict-related sexual violence as a matter of international peace and security, and while it affected all layers of society, certain factors, such as displacement, exacerbated existing vulnerabilities.  In addition, all forms of sexual violence constituted a cause of displacement and insecurity, she said, emphasizing that the upcoming adoption of a global compact on safe and orderly migration would offer a chance to integrate some of the issues being outlined during today’s debate into that mechanism.  Voicing support for the Secretary-General’s assertion that sexual violence should continue to be used as a criterion for designating targets for sanctions — which was logical considering its role as part of the “war economy” — she underlined the importance of ensuring that States provided access to sexual and reproductive health services to women affected by conflict.

VALENTINE RUGWABIZA (Rwanda) said that sexual and gender-based violence was not inevitable and its prevention was a primary State responsibility, with a collective responsibility to ensure the protection of those targeted.  All United Nations missions should have a robust mandate to protect civilians, guided by the Kigali Principles.  Member States should systematically train all peacekeepers to address gender issues; Rwanda had put in place a curriculum and had boosted female participation in contingents.  She called on other Member States to increase women’s participation, including as gender advisers and officers, and expressed the belief that joint international efforts could yield tangible results in creating an environment of zero tolerance to sexual violence as a weapon of war.

FRANCISCO TENYA HASEGAWA (Peru), stressing the scope of the problem said that work done on the ground to collect information had been crucial.  In Peru, a registry of displaced persons had provided the model for a registrar of those who had suffered violence in conflict.  He described his country’s legal measures to prevent gender violence in conflict and noted efforts to promote women’s empowerment, including a quota of 15 per cent in peacekeeping contingents.  He supported a gender perspective mainstreamed throughout all peacekeeping operations and appropriate training prior to deployment.  The overall goal must be a peaceful environment for all, particularly women and girls.

KATHRIN NESCHER-STÜTZEL (Liechtenstein) said that the suffering of the survivors of conflict-related sexual violence did not stop with the violation itself; stigmatization and shame exacerbated their situations and caused further trauma.  Accountability was a key ingredient in joint efforts to eradicate conflict-related sexual violence, and she commended the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for including charges related to sexual and gender-based crimes in many of her ongoing cases.  Where the Court did not have jurisdiction, other options must be sought.  In Syria, the newly established international, impartial and independent mechanism to support prosecution for the most serious crimes under international law offered the only promising path towards accountability for crimes committed in that country, including crimes of sexual violence.  While women and girls were more likely to become victims of sexual violence in conflict situations, men and boys were also affected, and the response to that issue had been insufficient.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) said that the current crisis in the Middle East had taken an abhorrent form and that women were the main victims of terrorism and violent extremism inspired by takfiri ideology.  In that light, he strongly condemned the attacks of ISIL/Da’esh and its offshoots.  He stated that foreign intervention and occupation had also led to the collapse of families, leaving little room for women’s empowerment.  Sanctions, a form of collective punishment, violated basic human rights, as did what he called the brutal occupation of Palestinian land by the Israeli regime and the blockade of the Gaza Strip.  He called it unfortunate, in addition, that women and girls were disproportionate victims of air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.  He stressed that organizing meetings such as today’s in the Council should not undermine the work of the most relevant bodies for women-related issues, including the General Assembly, the Commission on the Status of Women and the Economic and Social Council.

MARA MARINAKI, European External Action Service Principal Adviser on Gender and on the Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security of the European Union, drew attention to the delisting of the Forces Armées de Côte d’Ivoire from the Annex of the Secretary-General’s report and several recent “milestone decisions of justice” in conflict-related sexual violence crimes cases.  In that regard, she called for a holistic approach that addressed sexual violence as part of the women, peace and security agenda.  Such efforts were in line with the Union’s Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy, whose key objective was to address conflicts at an early stage while building the resilience of States and societies.  She went on to highlight specific actions taken by the Union to combat trafficking in human beings in armed conflict situations, as well as its firm support for the Secretary-General’s zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse, noting that the bloc was also revising the generic standards of behaviour for its field missions and operations.  In addition, it had adopted a framework for transitional justice which took gender into account in order to ensure that victims and witnesses had access to impartial and gender-sensitive tribunals and reparations, and 18 of its 28 member States had adopted national action plans on resolution 1325 (2000).

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that, for too long, sexual violence had been considered an unfortunate and inevitable reality of conflict.  “For far too long, humanity has stood on the side-lines, seeking justification for its collective inaction, in an evasive sense of fatalism,” she said, stressing that sexual violence was not an incidental by-product of conflict but instead an instrument employed specifically to humiliate and terrorize civilians.  While a number of Council resolutions had built momentum around the need to address the issue, progress had so far been both uneven and varied, and the world had watched in horror as several State and non-State actors had deployed rape and sexual abuse as a deliberate policy to subdue and suppress entire populations — including in Pakistan’s own neighbourhood.  The challenge was now to convert political will into practical action, she said, calling for top priority to be given to combating impunity.  Attention should also be placed on providing support for victims, addressing the special plight of migrant women and girls, integrating a gender perspective into the peacebuilding paradigm and resolving conflicts through a holistic and multisectoral approach, she said.

CARLOS SERGIO SOBRAL DUARTE (Brazil) said that victims of sexual violence faced lethal retaliation, “honour” crimes, suicide, untreated diseases, unsafe abortion, economic exclusion and indigence.  Children born of rape were marginalized due to stigma and their uncertain legal status.  The lack of adequate national capacity and expertise to investigate and prosecute for acts of sexual violence remained among the main impediments to ensuring accountability, he said, noting that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was crucial for ensuring that those crimes did not go unpunished.  Sexual violence was not sufficiently viewed as a threat to peace, and peace agreements rarely made reference to the need to eradicate it.  More had to be done to ensure that women had a voice and were active participants in such agreements, and in the negotiation, design and implementation of post-conflict and peacebuilding arrangements.

MICHAEL GRANT (Canada), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, an informal network of 53 Member States, expressed outrage over sexual violence in armed conflict by State and non-State actors.  A climate of impunity discouraged reporting, undermined assistance and abetted further violations.  Addressing sexual violence in conflict must be seen as a means of conflict prevention, and he thus called for accountability.  The investigation and documentation of sexual violence in armed conflict was vital to ensuring justice.  While there were several accountability mechanisms in place, justice depended on adequate legal and evidentiary frameworks to prosecute such crimes.  International accountability mechanisms and Council sanction regimes must be mandated and resourced to investigate sexual violence in conflict.  Further, accountability and prevention of sexual violence should be included in peace agreements, with multisectoral support for survivors.  Societies, including traditional and religious leaders, must support survivors and declare that shame rested on perpetrators.

Speaking in his national capacity, he expressed outrage at the scale and scope of sexual violence in conflict.  Its systematic use as a weapon of war demanded an effective and timely response.  “Member States cannot simply decry sexual violence without taking actions within their power to assist survivors,” he said, stressing that Canada would work to prevent such acts.  While men were the main perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict, they were also victims and it was imperative that the United Nations and States ensure that any gender analysis considered that aspect, he said, expressing deep concern over sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations staff, peacekeepers and non-United Nations forces.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary) said she was appalled that sexual violence was not only an integral part of the ideology of violent extremist and terrorist groups but also a cold-blooded strategy for financing and recruitment through sex trafficking, sexual slavery, the extortion of ransoms and forced displacement.  The impact of sexual violence in armed conflict was dramatic for survivors and detrimental for communities, as individuals faced physical and psychological harm as well as stigma, double victimization and trauma.  She noted that, for communities, sexual violence was a form of collective persecution of ethnic and religious minorities that led to a loss of identity through forced conversion and indoctrination.  There must be justice and accountability for such horrendous crimes, underpinned by investigation and documentation, and survivors must have immediate victim and witness protection support, as well as context-specific support for their socioeconomic reintegration into their communities.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, stressed the urgency of ending conflict-related sexual violence.  In that light, he supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation that the Security Council influence all actors to comply with international law, including through referrals to the International Criminal Court.  All available mechanisms must be utilized and best practices must be shared.  Victims must be assisted to reintegrate into communities and to report their plight undeterred by fear and shame.  Maintaining that every country could make a difference in fighting gender-based violence, he described Estonia’s work on the issue at the international and national levels as part of the broader women, peace and security agenda.  He called for the comprehensive cooperation of all Member States on this priority matter.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said that the use of sexual violence in conflict was motivated by “a litany of evils” that were listed in the Secretary-General’s report and included the recruitment of terrorists, forcing conversions through marriage, suppressing women’s fundamental rights, generating revenue through sex trafficking, and giving women and girls as war spoils or using them as human shields and suicide bombers.  In the face of such heinous crimes, States and the international community shouldered the responsibility to protect those who were exposed to war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing, and conflict-related sexual violence fell within that responsibility to protect.  There was an urgent need to act to spare women and girls from becoming the prey of such atrocious tactics.  The role of women in peacebuilding and reconciliation measures was essential, and should not be an afterthought.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) expressed concern at the rise of incidents of rape, sexual slavery and other heinous crimes in conflict situations.  Monitoring, assistance to victims, protection to journalists uncovering such crimes and combating impunity were critical.  Justice must be served and compensation must be provided to the victims; trust funds for those purposes required continuing support.  Training for security and peacekeeping personnel was also key, as was the creation of national frameworks for ending the scourge.  He described his country’s framework and pledged its cooperation with all actors committed to advancing the protection and empowerment of women in conflict situations, including civil society organizations.

MICHAEL O’TOOLE (Ireland) highlighted the link between sexual violence and trafficking, noting that in times of war, relevant prevention and protection mechanisms were almost completely eroded, allowing the activities of terrorist groups and criminal networks to thrive.  Security Council resolution 2331 (2016) was the strongest instrument yet to highlight the relationship between sexual violence and trafficking in situations of conflict, and the recent report by the Secretary-General outlined how victims could be “revictimized” even after their ordeal had ended.  Women were interrogated as potential affiliates of extremist groups, instead of receiving treatment, while children faced legal and social discrimination after being born as a result of rape.  He also welcomed the focus in the report on the link between accountability and prevention, and called on the United Nations and Member States to support means to pursue accountability through the work undertaken by the Justice Rapid Response team and the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala), emphasizing that the international community must prevent the generation of income from trafficking or sexual slavery as well as the use of women as a form of payment by terrorist groups, called in particular for early warning mechanisms and increased attention to the rights of the most vulnerable.  Sexual violence should be included in the development of sanctions regimes, he said, adding that the international community must also step up its efforts to break down barriers to the participation of women in peacebuilding and other critical processes.  As a troop-contributing country, Guatemala saw resolution 1325 (2000) as having laid the foundation for the inclusion of a gender perspective in the mandates of all United Nations peace operations.  Troop-contributing countries must provide all their staff with “no excuses” cards, which specifically outlined the Organization’s rules about — and consequences for — sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers.  Furthermore, he said, the magnitude of the challenge required the creation of strategic and operational alliances between all stakeholders, as well as the application of the Rome Statute, in national contexts.

BOGUSŁAW WINID (Poland), associating himself with the European Union, recognized progress in the fight against sexual violence in conflict but regretted its widespread persistence.  He called it a crime against humanity.  Reporting such crimes, ensuring accountability and provision of support to victims was essential.  Emerging challenges such as sexual exploitation of persons fleeing violence, including through trafficking, must be faced, while the entire matter must be faced holistically, as it was an integral part of the wider conflict-prevention agenda.  He welcomed efforts to raise awareness of the issue, provide training for medical staff and allocate adequate financial resources such as those contributed by Poland to the Mosul operation of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).  Cooperation between affected Governments, civil society and the international community was critical.

ASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of Friends on Women, Peace and Security, said there were far too many instances of sexual violence in conflict, with some 200,000 victims falling to it during his country’s war of independence.  In more recent times, he noted accounts of sexual violence reported by those fleeing into his country from a neighbour.  He hoped that perpetrators would be brought to justice.  Condemning sexual violence by terrorist groups, he added that in his national context there was a new trend of using women and children, mostly family members, to augment their ranks.  In facing all instances of sexual violence in conflict situations, impunity must be ended, support must be provided to victims, fighting must be resolved using all the tools of the Security Council, women must participate meaningfully in peace processes and protection must be offered to refugees and migrants.  His country remained committed to enhancing the capacity of its peacekeeping contingents in protecting and empowering women in conflict situations.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia), associating herself with the Group of Friends Women, Peace and Security, described a number of her country’s efforts to incorporate women in its evolving peace process.  Pointing out that 20 per cent of the special and political Mission’s staff were women, she added that Colombia had established a Truth Commission and a Special Jurisdiction for Peace, which ensured that crimes of sexual violence committed during the country’s long civil conflict were not eligible for amnesty.  A newly proposed constitutional amendment would also establish a Government unit responsible for investigating allegations of sexual violence crimes.  Going forward, Colombia would focus on restoring the rights of victims and creating dignified living conditions, working closely with women’s civil society organizations on both fronts.  While it still faced many challenges, Colombia stood ready to share its experiences and lessons learned in providing redress to victims of sexual violence with other States, she concluded.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), describing the growing use and threat of use of sexual violence by non-State groups, terrorist groups and others as one of today’s most serious crimes, pointed out that many Governments had already codified those acts as war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide.  Calling, in that regard, for the use of sanctions and referrals to the International Criminal Court, he urged the international community to redouble its efforts to find immediate solutions and hold perpetrators accountable.  Victims must be provided with adequate support services and reparations, while more attention should also be paid to the risk factors and underlying conditions that rendered some populations more vulnerable to sexual violence crimes.  Those issues must also be incorporated into all United Nations peacekeeping mission mandates and peacebuilding efforts, and specialists on gender-based and sexual violence must be provided to all missions.  Regarding cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by the Organization’s own peacekeepers, he voiced strong support for the Secretary-General’s zero tolerance policy as well as for efforts to provide support to victims.

GEIR O. PEDERSEN (Norway), also speaking on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, said that the issue of sexual violence must be included in ceasefire agreements, as well as on the table during peace negotiations and at the forefront of peacekeeping.  Sexual violence undermined the societies we strived to stabilize and build, he said, and destroyed the future as well as the present.  Impunity was unacceptable and perpetrators must be held accountable.  The International Criminal Court played a central role at the international level in the fight against impunity, but the capacities of national authorities should also be strengthened.  United Nations peacekeeping operations must have the capacity to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence, and female peacekeepers had an especially crucial role to play.

LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama), noting the magnitude of the problem of sexual violence in conflict, called for more women to participate in peacekeeping efforts as part of a comprehensive approach forged to eradicate unacceptable behaviour, bring perpetrators to justice and support victims.  Welcoming the work of various United Nations bodies on the issue, she called for more participation of women in the fight against violent extremism in particular.  States must strengthen the prevention of violence at all levels as well as the relevant judicial mechanisms.  The role that women should play at all levels in the efforts was key, as was cooperation through an international framework that respected human rights law.

GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey), noting that sexual violence employed or commissioned as a war tactic significantly aggravated the severe effects of armed conflict, drew particular attention to the use of such crimes — including the sale and trade of women and girls — by Da’esh in Iraq and Syria.  While Turkey was working to combat those activities, it was “high time for the international community to act in unity” in the deployment of a comprehensive and inclusive approach to eliminate the root causes of that menace.  The terrorist organization PKK/PYD also continued to resort to the abuse and exploitation of women and children, even against its own female recruits.  As the crisis in Syria entered its seventh year, sexual violence continued to be used by various parties as systematic tactics of warfare, terrorism and torture, with millions of Syrians — particularly women and girls — living under those threats.  In that context, and in light of the horrific acts of sexual violence committed by the Syrian regime, Turkey maintained an “open door” policy for Syrians fleeing war and violence.  There were now over 3 million Syrians living in Turkey, he said, adding that his Government was exerting every effort to provide them with safety and security.

NIDA JAKUBONĖ (Lithuania), associating herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said conflict-related sexual violence remained an acute issue and was becoming more complex with ever-increasing extremism and terrorism, conflict-driven displacement, mass migration and human trafficking.  Calling for a comprehensive approach incorporating elements of prevention, early warning, justice, accountability and the participation of women in political processes, she said that while States bore the primary responsibility for holding perpetrators accountable many lacked that capacity.  In that regard, the work of the United Nations Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict and the partnership between the Justice Rapid Response initiative and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) — which deployed justice experts from their joint roster — was critical.  For its part, the Council should be more vocal and systematic in its condemnation of conflict-related sexual violence and demand credible investigations for all allegations of such crimes, including by Government-affiliated forces, armed groups or the United Nations own peacekeepers.

MIGUEL RUIZ CABANAS (Mexico), calling the prevalence of sexual violence in conflict “truly alarming”, concurred with the need for an urgent response.  Surveying action taken by the Council thus far, he proposed a comprehensive prevention strategy promoting the full participation of women in all spheres of community and Government as well as in all phases of peacemaking efforts.  Full support must be provided to victims across the board, in line with the Secretary-General’s objectives.  Full respect for human rights, prevention of conflict and mainstreaming of a gender perspective in all international efforts was needed.  He pledged his country’s full support to all efforts to end the scourge.

Mr. MOFADAL (Sudan) condemned all sexual violence in situations of conflict or terror and called on the international community to come together to address the problem and its root causes.  He described some of the laws adopted in his country to counter trafficking of women, as well as national strategies to protect vulnerable groups and the creation of institutes of human rights.  Promotion of the rule of law and strengthening of the justice system was particularly important in that context, with the penal code and the independences of judges bolstered.  Rape was now clearly defined in the criminal code.  In regard to mentions of Darfur in the Secretary-General’s report, he called for a renewed effort to ensure accuracy, adding that some descriptions did not match the current situation, which had been recognized as significantly improved in regard to security.  In addition, he maintained that the vast majority of cases of sexual violence listed in the report were a reflection of social problems rather than conflict.  Maintaining that the Sudanese Armed Forces were acting in a professional manner in their work to strengthen the rule of law and counter armed groups, he pledged his country’s further cooperation in improving the situation of women.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) said it was disturbing to see sexual violence used as a tactic of terrorism and a strategy to control and intimidate entire communities.  It was also alarming to see terrorist groups restrict the rights of women and girls.  Sexual violence perpetuated conflict and weakened stability, while restricting participation in economic and social life, he said, adding that the United Nations and the international community had failed to tackle its root causes.  States must establish robust legal and institutional frameworks to prevent sexual violence among vulnerable groups, including women and girls, including those living in rural communities, and members of the LGBTI community.  Such acts of violence constituted crimes against humanity, and there must be zero tolerance of those supporting them, he said, emphasizing that sexual and reproductive health services and support programmes must be made available, and legal frameworks established at the national level to protect victims, as well as the legal status of children born of rape.

JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany) called for comprehensive support for victims of sexual violence in conflict situations, including medical, psychological and economic components, noting in that context his country’s efforts to help migrants at risk of trafficking as well as women and children traumatized during the conflict in Syria.  Impunity for all sexual violence must be ended through targeted sanctions and the use of international tribunals and other mechanisms to assist in the investigation and prosecution of crimes in that country.  To accelerate implementation of Council resolutions on all fronts, Germany was engaged in supporting regional and national efforts, and would host the meeting of focal points in 2018.

TANMAYA LAL (India) emphasized that issues relating to women, peace and security could not be viewed in isolation from the wider societal context of gender and development, citing the significant contributions of the Commission on the Status of Women and the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in that regard.  Describing his country as a major contributor to UN-Women since inception, he said India also remained the leading troop-contributing country, having participated in nearly 50 of the 71 United Nations peacekeeping missions, and in 13 of the current 16 operations.  In 2007, the country had deployed the world’s first all-female formed police unit within the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), he said, adding that India had taken the lead in hosting specialized training courses for peacekeepers on sexual violence in armed conflict situations.  More recently, it had been the first Member State to contribute to the Secretary-General’s Trust Fund for Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and had also contributed to the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone.

TÉTE ANTÓNIO, Permanent Observer of the African Union, praised recent Council action on sexual violence in conflict, adding that it was now urgent to meet the challenge of transnational actors that were constantly changing their modus operandi.  In that light, he said, the Union was developing a resilient model of prevention based on the collaboration of subregional and international partners.  It had demonstrated relentless commitment to the implementation of Council resolutions on the issue.  Noting national contributions to that effort, he stressed that proactive steps must be taken by peacekeeping missions to increase the number of civilian positions held by women.  Describing the Union’s priority of mainstreaming gender issues into the African peace and security agenda through the current road map, including increased women’s participation in all areas of peacemaking, he announced that the African Women Leader’s Network would be launched at a three-day forum starting on 31 May in New York.  The time had come, he concluded, for all stakeholders to accelerate the practical implementation of all legal instruments on women, peace and security.

JIŘÍ ELLINGER (Czech Republic), associating himself with the European Union, emphasized the need for all stakeholders to unite on the issue of women, peace and security at a time when extremist groups placed the subordination of women at the top of their agenda.  Noting that sexual violence must also be adequately addressed in times of peace, he drew attention to the Czech Republic’s Action Plan for the Prevention of Domestic and Gender-Based Violence (2015-2018) and a similar action plan on women, peace and security.  He also described various Czech development and humanitarian programmes with a strong gender aspect, including projects aimed at preventing sexual violence, setting up centres for marginalized and abused girls and providing internally displaced persons with health care and hygienic needs.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said justice was an essential condition for peacebuilding.  He underscored the Secretary-General’s recommendation for the Council to include sexual violence and conflict in the work of its sanctions committees.  The mechanism established by the General Assembly to investigate and prosecute those involved in grave crimes in Syria, including sexual violence, had an important role to play, he said, as did efforts to reintegrate victims without stigmatization.  He called for social, economic and psychosocial support for victims, citing in that context a hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that provided such assistance, as well as lawyers to ensure that reparations were obtained.  He encouraged support for doctor Mukwege and his team.

CHO TAE-YUL (Republic of Korea) said that the rise of violent extremism, mass migration and the ongoing refugee crisis had added to the gravity and complexity of the situation regarding sexual violence in conflict.  Extremist groups should be eradicated, given that sexual violence and exploitation were used to sustain such groups via both recruitment and revenue.  He also noted that the global citizenship education initiative encouraged tolerance and mutual understanding of differences, which could help prevent violent extremism at its roots.  The culture of impunity should also be ended; if a country failed to hold perpetrators accountable, the international community should employ all available means to address that issue, including by referrals to the International Criminal Court.  There should also be a survivor-centric approach towards victims, and the capacity of Governments to respond to sexual violence in conflict should be enhanced.

MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI (Tunisia) said that his delegation was committed to the protection of vulnerable populations against sexual violence in conflict.  Tunisia had developed a strategy based on four essential elements:  prevention, protection, follow-up and response.  It also gave women a central role in preventing extremism and protected them from being targets of violence.  He noted that the Council’s resolutions considered that sexual violence was a tactic of war and an obstacle to international peace and security, and hence it was important to discuss that issue.

BESIANA KADARE (Albania), associating herself with the European Union, said that despite collective efforts, conflict-related sexual violence continued, and the real challenge was to convert political will into action on the ground.  Currently there was a lack of accountability for perpetrators, weak Government response, poor monitoring and inadequate support services for victims.  The United Nations should increase its efforts to help strengthen national capacity, and Governments also had a responsibility to adopt protective measures, develop mechanisms of investigation, and put policies in place to protect their people from sexual violence, whether perpetrated by Government forces or others.  The International Criminal Court should fulfil its role in ensuring accountability when States failed to comply in that matter.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that the mass-scale violence against Yezidi women and girls was a horrific example of the specific targeting of women and girls by extremist groups.  Shame, stigma and strong cultural norms dissuaded women and men from reporting crimes, and the police, armed forces, and individuals within the United Nations system could also be the perpetrators of egregious acts of sexual exploitation and abuse.  The International Criminal Court had a role to play, as its mandate allowed for prosecuting individuals suspected of sexual violence.  However, there had been only one conviction for sexual and gender-based since that Court’s establishment.

MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria) urged prudence and objectivity around humanitarian issues, stressing that the perpetrators of crimes against humanity must be brought to justice.  The Secretary-General’s report was based on reports of a joint investigative commission, whose work he rejected as “extremely politicized”.  He expressed concern that the Special Representative based her report on information from an organization that lacked objectivity.  Rather, she should conduct her own investigation.  The Special Representative, through reports submitted to the 1277 Committee, had outlined violence perpetrated by Da’esh against Syrian and Iraqi women.  According to her current report, however, such groups had not committed crimes such as rape and torture against Syrian women.  Rather, she “timidly” pointed to constraints on access for those women and had overshot her mandate to identify cases of sexual violence in conflict.  He wondered whether her office was unable to conduct investigations into sexual violence by armed groups against Syrian women on Syrian territory.  He wondered why she had bypassed her mandate to discuss other issues and promoted resolution 71/860, which had not been adopted by consensus.  He urged the Special Representative to shed light on the fate of Syrian women abducted by terrorist groups and to support his country in delivering justice.  All those crimes had been reported to the Special Representative and the Council, which both had neglected Syria’s demands.  He urged the Special Representative to use her influence on countries sponsoring armed terrorist groups and to report on all information she had received.  Those perpetrating such acts were those vowing to do their utmost to combat them in the Council.

CRISTINA MARIA CERQUEIRA PUCARINHO (Portugal), associating herself with the European Union, described the women, peace and security agenda as a “critical but underutilized tool for preventing conflict” and shaping more effective responses to today’s complex crises.  Pointing to a nexus between trafficking in persons and conflict-related sexual violence — which was deeply worrying in cases of women and girls who were ostracized following their release from violent extremist groups and had fallen victims of sex trafficking — she said more must be done to ensure victims’ rights to protection and reparations.  Perpetrators must be punished, she added, also calling for support to mobilization campaigns to help shift the stigma of sexual violence from victims to perpetrators.  Portugal’s second national action plan for the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) included training programmes for executive and technical staff in the fields of justice, armed forces and security on gender equality and sexual violence, as well as those staff assigned to international missions.  Prevention and other efforts must also integrate civil society, she said.

FEH MOUSSA GONE (Côte d’Ivoire) said that sexual violence in conflict was often strategic in nature, with specific goals and targets, and the international community must ensure that perpetrators were brought to justice.  He recalled that his country had emerged from a decade of conflict during which individual and group rape had been reported.  Nonetheless, the Government sought to attack gender-based violence and had created a national strategy to that end.  The Secretary-General had removed Côte d’Ivoire from the list of countries where sexual violence was used in armed conflict, he noted, calling for the names of certain non-State actors to be removed from the Secretary-General’s report, which stated that those groups had not been in existence for the last six years.  He said the Government had drawn up a provision on the suppression of rape, and the army Chief of Staff had signed a declaration of engagement that had led similar commitments by other commanders of the armed forces and gendarmerie units.  As a result, education on sexual violence was part of the training modules for military academies.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said that sexual violence in armed conflict was a crime against dignity as well as a violation of human rights law.  One of its causes was the training and equipping of non-State groups to promote the weakening of States, which turned them into fertile ground for atrocities.  The prohibition of weapons to terrorists and extremist groups would reduce their capacity for sexual violence in armed conflict, he said, adding that prevention was the best tool.  Venezuela supported the zero-tolerance policy, he said, calling for accountability for all kinds of sexual violence and abuse committed by foreign forces as well as peacekeeping personnel.

INA H. KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia) expressed deep concern over the use of sexual violence as a war tactic, pressing the international community to protect human dignity and limit the effects of conflict on non-combatants.  Efforts should be made to strengthen the United Nations normative framework to deter atrocities in conflict situations, she said, emphasizing the importance of prevention, early detection, protection, punishment for perpetrators and justice for victims.  Indonesia had female personnel deployed in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and was committed to increasing the number of female peacekeepers and military observers, she said, while advocating mandatory training for all peacekeepers and the broadening of civilian peacebuilding capacities by encouraging women survivors of sexual violence to participate in peacekeeping training so that troops could be more “in tune” with the signs of sexual violence.

MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE (Ghana) applauded progress made throughout the United Nations system in setting standards on conflict-related sexual violence, including Council resolutions that she said helped to prioritize the issue.  She stressed, however, that much work was needed in prevention and accountability.  In that context, she welcomed the shift in focus to implementation of existing legal instruments as depicted in the Secretary-General’s report.  National capacities must be strengthened, backed by multi-stakeholder partnerships at the community level that included traditional and religious leaders to counter the culture of violence and discrimination against women that played out in conflict-related violence.  She also stressed the importance of comprehensive gender training and accountability for peace enforcement officers, including United Nations peacekeepers, as well as adequately-funded support to victims.

MAHLATSE MMINELE (South Africa), affirming the urgency of ending sexual violence in conflict continued despite progress in the international framework, said that full use must be made of all the tools created by the Security Council.  He called for augmentation of female peacekeepers, women protection advisers and personnel trained in gender issues.  He supported the Secretary-General’s call for the Council to give due consideration to early-warning signs of sexual violence in monitoring conflict situations.  A protocol should be developed for preventing sexual abuse as part of peacekeeping mandates.  Swift responses to crimes should also be ensured and victims assisted through the Headquarter mechanisms recommended by the Secretary-General, whose proposals for a system-wide consolidated repository of information he also supported.

DAVID YITSHAK ROET (Israel), associating himself with the statement delivered on behalf of the Group of Friends, described sexual violence as a plague that must be eradicated.  It had resurfaced as a tactic of terrorism and was intended to instil fear in the hearts of communities.  As made clear by the Secretary-General’s report, sexual violence was perpetrated by both non-State actors and States that were members of the United Nations, he noted.  Silence was not an option in the face of rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, pregnancy, abortion and marriage, he emphasized, pointing out that women were sold as slaves in ISIL-controlled markets, and that young girls were given out as trophies to fighters returning from the battlefield.  The Syrian regime was also involved in such atrocities, he said, adding that its armed forces, intelligence services and other pro-Government factions were also using those savage tactics.  Iran supported the Syrian regime, enabling it to avoid accountability for its crimes, he added.

SHAHARUDDIN ONN (Malaysia) said that support for the 82 Chibok girls released by Boko Haram must be at the forefront of response efforts.  Women’s participation in peacebuilding, and their increased participation in peacekeeping, deserved full support from all States.  Citing the role of women in the Colombia peace talks and in regional and other consultations, he said their presence as peacekeepers could foster confidence among local populations.  He announced that, as of today, Malaysia had increased the number of female personnel in UNIFIL from 26 to 40, and was taking steps to ensure that it achieved the 15 per cent target of female personnel deployed in that mission.

JEANINE MABUNDA LIOKO (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said rape had been used as a weapon of war in her country, but the situation had been improving since 2013, thanks to the Government’s commitment to the zero-tolerance United Nations policy.  “This is no longer a slogan,” she said, noting that the President had created her office, which “pooled” efforts to combat sexual violence.  “Today we’ve turned a new corner,” recognized under resolution 2277 (2016) and by successive reports of the Secretary-General since 2015, she said.  Since the 2013 joint communiqué, the Government had carried out a strategy to galvanize the Justice and Defence ministries as well as the Prosecutor-General, civil society, and traditional and religious leaders.  She went on to state that a committee established under the army to combat sexual violence and raise awareness in military camps had been supported by the United Nations.  That had led to the signing of formal commitment statements by 218 commanders, and more than 13,000 troops across the country, she said, adding that the national police were placing women at the forefront of that drive, with four women appointed at the rank of general, one of whom headed the army civic school.

Justice was addressed through civil and military courts, as well as mobile courts that travelled to crime sites, she said.  Through military justice, 255 condemnations had been handed down in 2016, compared to 111 such decisions in 2013 — a 50 per cent improvement — while high-ranking personnel and force commanders had been found guilty of rape, she said, citing a well-known 2014 case and the condemnation of two colonels in 2015.  In the “Walikale case” of mass rape, the accused perpetrator, a Mr. Leonso, had been arrested in 2016 and transferred from the western part of the country to stand trial in a Goma military court in the east, she said.  In another case, involving the rape of young children, the judiciary had arrested and lifted the immunity of a senior official to ensure he was brought to justice.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo had published a compendium of military supreme court decisions covering the period 2010 to 2015, which the Government was prepared to share with others, she said.  She advocated support for victims, pointing out that her country had experimented with a programme aimed at reintegrating 1,500 survivors of sexual violence and former child recruits of armed groups.

ABDERRAZZAK LAASSEL (Morocco) emphasized that “no woman, child, man or boy is safe” as long as Da’esh, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and other groups continued to use sexual violence as a weapon of war and terror, and a channel for resources.  While women and girls were most at risk, sexual violence did not only affect the victims, but undermined entire communities as well as their human dignity and social fabric.  Noting that his delegation was a member of the Group of Friends against Sexual Violence in Conflict, he called for “out-of-the-box” thinking that would take into account the root causes of such brutal, inhuman and barbarous practices.  Furthermore, it was critical to eradicate the stigmatization of victims, as well as children born of it, he said.  “International human rights and humanitarian law must be applied across the board,” he stressed, adding that perpetrators must be held fully accountable.

SOPHEA YAUNG CHAN (Cambodia), voicing concern over the troubling rise of sexual violence in conflict — especially crimes against ethnic and cultural minorities, women and children — said the intolerable practice was used to degrade and dehumanize entire populations.  Urging action informed by clear, accurate and verifiable data, he called on the international community to address the deep-rooted causes of conflict in a determined and comprehensive manner.  He went on to outline Cambodia’s efforts in that regard, including its cooperation with other member States of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), United Nations agencies and peacekeeping missions.

Ms. ZAHIR (Maldives), affirming the urgency of facing the problem of sexual violence in conflict, said that the Security Council should comprehensively adapt its prevention, protection and recovery efforts to the asymmetric threats posed by non-State groups, including terrorists, building on recent resolutions.  The Council should employ all means at its disposal to ensure that all parties to conflict comply with international law on the issue, enforced through systematic monitoring and capacity-building.  When violations do occur, matters should be referred to the International Criminal Court.  She fully supported, in addition, zero tolerance for sexual abuse by peacekeepers and the inclusion of tasks related to resolution 1325 (2000) in mission mandates.  She described policies put in place by his Government to counter sexual violence and harassment and to empower women.  She called for renewed and invigorated action at all levels to stop heinous crimes against women, pledging his country’s continued support for such efforts.

AMADU KOROMA (Sierra Leone) said the Special Court in his country had in custody those who bore the greatest responsibility for sexual violence during the civil conflict there.  Emphasizing that the international community and the Government must ensure accountability, he said the United Nations should spare no effort to invest resources in identifying early warning signs of conflict, and give women more opportunities to participate in its highest decision-making bodies.  Sierra Leone made modest contributions to peacekeeping operations, with troops trained in preventing sexual violence during conflict, he said, affirming the Government’s commitment to all international instruments aimed at ending violence against women and girls.  The fight to end sexual violence in conflict could not be achieved without credible international legal institution able to bring the perpetrators of such horrendous crimes to book, he noted, emphasizing that the International Criminal Court remained the most effective legal body addressing impunity.

MOHAMED SIAD DOUALEH (Djibouti) condemned atrocities against women and children, calling upon all stakeholders, especially non-State actors, to abide by international humanitarian law.  Expressing hope that all efforts would be made to ensure that the Chibok girls were supported, he called on Nigeria to help find all the other missing high schoolers.  More broadly, he said atrocities against women and children led to all types of pathologies due to migration, forced displacement, war or precarious living situations.  “Children in danger are indeed dangerous children,” he said.  “Their lives are broken forever.”  He advocated quantitative and qualitative assessments of victims to ensure better long-term care, and emphasized that the creation of two offices — one for victims’ rights and another for a special coordinator — should be done in cooperation with existing mechanisms.

For information media. Not an official record.