The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2019/280) issued on 29 March 2019.

The conflict in Yemen has exacerbated the dire humanitarian crisis. After four years of continuous violence, more than 80 per cent of the population requires humanitarian assistance and protection. There was increased reporting of sexual violence in 2018, in particular during the last quarter of the year. Reports include cases of physical or sexual assault, rape and sexual slavery. While a few cases are directly attributable to parties to the conflict, most are the result of increased risks that women and children face, against a backdrop of pre-existing gender inequality, exacerbated by the chronic incapacity of Government institutions to protect civilians. Women and children are increasingly at risk of trafficking, sexual violence and exploitation, particularly in the context of displacement.

The breakdown of law and order and the limitations of the justice system have resulted in widespread impunity. Those factors, along with the victims’ fear of reprisal, contribute to underreporting of crimes of sexual violence. Such reluctance is particularly acute for refugees and asylum seekers, who generally do not pursue legal redress. Although the practice of child marriage precedes the conflict, there has been an increase in its occurrence, suggesting it may serve as a coping mechanism amid ongoing conflict and displacement. Refugees and asylum seekers arriving at coastal and urban areas are at significant risk of being arbitrarily detained, often in unofficial centres, where murder, torture and sexual violence occur. A woman was arrested by the Security Belt Forces in southern Yemen for leaking information to the Ansar Allah and during the arrest she was allegedly raped and tortured. Other incidents of rape and sexual assault reportedly occurred in Burayqah migrant detention centre in Aden S/2019/280 19-04552 21/35 and in the Basatin area of the Dar Sa‘d district of Aden, both controlled by the Security Belt Forces, as documented by the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen established by the Human Rights Council (see A/HRC/39/43). The management of these unofficial centres is usually unclear. The United Nations advocates with State and de facto authorities to gain access to detained persons of concern.

In 2018, of the 472 reported cases of sexual violence, 341 involved sexual violence against refugees and asylum seekers, with 70 of the incidents involving minors. Those 70 incidents, or 131 cases, involved 131 children (80 boys and 51 girls). Those 131 cases include 122 cases (affecting 73 boys and 49 girls) perpetrated by community members and relatives – 56 per cent of them occurring in settlements and host communities for internally displaced persons in Hudaydah, Amanat al-Asimah and in Hadramawt Governorates. Additional cases of sexual violence against children were verified as having been committed by members of armed groups: two involving boys were attributed to the Popular Resistance; and one case was attributed to the Houthis. The areas and detention centres under militia control are of grave concern; the United Nations does not have access to those areas in order to document human rights violations. Six cases against children (four boys and two girls) are attributed to members of the Yemeni government forces.

The United Nations has continued to assist survivors through comprehensive case management, including referrals for medical, psychosocial and legal aid support, as well as safe shelter and the direct provision of cash assistance, livelihood training and dignity kits.

Recommendation

I urge all parties to the conflict to ensure protection for the most vulnerable, including displaced civilians and detainees. I encourage enhanced monitoring and reporting, particularly as relates to the nexus of displacement, trafficking and sexual violence and exploitation. I further urge all parties to facilitate access for humanitarian assistance, including services for survivors of sexual violence.

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