More than two decades after the conflict’s end, thousands of survivors of wartime sexual violence continue to suffer socioeconomic marginalization and stigma. Stigmatization causes survivors’ tremendous fear of being “outed” to family and community members, preventing many from speaking openly about sexual violence or seeking services or reparations. Furthermore, legislation is not harmonized across the entities, thus survivors have varied entitlements not only in the different entities, but also in the different cantons.
Survivors of conflict-related sexual violence require medical and psychosocial support to ease their reintegration and prevent the transgenerational transfer of trauma. Accordingly, the entities’ ministries in charge of health and social protection are building the capacities of medical and psychosocial service professionals to provide quality, non-discriminatory and sensitive assistance to survivors across the country. In addition, standard operating procedures for the management of conflict-related sexual violence have been developed and adopted in 20 communities, thereby streamlining service delivery for survivors and allowing for the uniform provision of care. Ministries gathered and published the tools developed through the joint United Nations programme on conflict-related sexual violence as a package of measures to address the legacy of conflict-related sexual violence. Finally, medical and psychosocial professionals are undergoing sensitization training regarding care for survivors of sexual violence. The United Nations is implementing capacity-building activities for ministries relating to quality health and psychosocial support.
The United Nations continues to work closely with the Government to enhance the capacities of service providers and establish sustainable multisectoral referral for survivors. In 2018, the Republika Srpska government adopted the Law on Victims of Torture, aimed at creating a conducive environment for survivors to gain access to services, justice and reparations. After one month of implementation, 257 applications for recognition of victim of torture status were submitted to the first instance bodies, 100 of which were filed by survivors of wartime rape. In the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, access to justice for survivors has been regulated by the Law on Basic Social Protection, supporting victims of war and families with children. With United Nations support, an interdisciplinary Commission was established in order to grant rapid determinations of status for survivors. Since becoming operational in 2017, the Commission has received 72 applications, from 61 women and 11 men. In 2018, 33 applications were submitted, 29 of which were filed by women and 4 by men. To date, 59 applicants have been granted status.
I urge the relevant authorities to uphold the rights of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence to reparations, including by strengthening basic social services such as psychosocial and health services, economic empowerment, housing, free legal aid and education for vulnerable groups, including survivors and their children, and to allocate a specific budget for that purpose. I emphasize the need for a holistic approach for survivors as well as for children born of wartime rape. I further call on the authorities to continue efforts to alleviate stigma and urge the complete harmonization of the entities’ laws with respect to the rights of survivors.