From 10th to 13th June 2014 in London (UK), government representatives from 120 countries together with over 1,000 experts, faith leaders, youth organisations and representatives of civil society, military and jurisdiction came together aiming to create an irreversible momentum against sexual violence in conflict and deliver practical actions that impact those on the ground. This gathering was chaired and hosted by the Right Honorable William Hague, British Foreign Secretary, and Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Special Envoy. The IFMSA considers the prevention of sexual violence in both conflict and peace, through education and empowerment of both women and men, to be of crucial importance.
[The IFMSA Delegation in the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict]
Strengthening investigation, documentation and prosecution
Currently many legal systems, especially those in geopolitically-insecure areas, face a grave lack of avenues for the investigation, documentation and prosecution of gender based violence (GBV), particularly rape. For this reason involvement of the international community is of great importance. The available expertise and trained professionals can assist in those countries where technical assistance in investigation and documentation is mostly needed. Furthermore, training medical professionals, law enforcement and policemen to adequately collect evidence and document this in ways understandable to all professions greatly increases the chances of successful prosecution of the perpetrator. Especially, the physicians are crucial in in the evidence collecting process and consulted first by survivors of sexual violence. This double role of examining the patient to collect and document evidence, as well as providing psychosocial support throughout the entire process results to often in conflict of interest, which hamstrings the prosecution process . Next to support on the ground, the implementation of national laws should be stimulated, in order to support the local prosecutors.
Therefore, the international community was called upon to support the active participation of women in legal systems especially as prosecutors, judges and lawyers and, moreover, to assist developing countries in tapping into the wealth and expertise on the international level. This may be helpful to mobilize professionals from across the globe, that are ready to rapidly deploy the areas where technical assistance in investigation and documentation in conflict is greatly needed. Utilising this expertise will in turn produce a good outlet and strengthen the prosecutor’s abilities to bring successful cases against perpetrators. National law framework should be actively promoted. When national laws fail to prosecute adequately, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has the privilege and also obligation to intervene. In accordance to the ICC Rome Statue of 1998 this can be done, because GBV can be (and was) categorised as torture and, thereby, as crime against humanity and/or war crime. Truth and reconciliation commissions can be also a powerful tool for this.
“The key is eliminating impunity and having consequences up and down the chain”
John F. Kerry, US Secretary of State
The difficulties we are facing now in conflict areas regarding recognition of rape as a crime and prosecution of the perpetrators is something we have also seen in the western world. Both the paternalistic image of women dominated by men and the association of shame & victim-guilt has hamstringed the development of legal frameworks around the world. To cease GBV sustainably we have to shift the guilt from the victim to the perpetrator by establishing the right legal framework. Stronger accountability to perpetrators will end the impunity and send the message that perpetrators will be brought to justice. It will restore the dignity of survivors and lay the foundation, on which safe communities can be rebuild in the aftermath of a conflict. An “up-and-down”-approach should be applied, which ensures that for example an army general tolerating his men raping women, will brought to justice too (as is normal for any other war crime). Thereby, the essential outcome of any accountability reform should be non-recurrence. Furthermore, reparations to victims were discussed as a mean to simplify recovery. Therefore, some countries assured extra funds for the ICC Victims Trust fund.
One in three girls worldwide is affected by Gender Based Violence. It is no matter of inadequate dressing or the behavior of women, as studies proof. It is a barbarous crime against humanity often instrumentalized to misuse a vacuum of power and held people away from revolutions. Therefore, it is in any way a major obstacle against full empowerment of women and their full participation in society. Knowing this and our shared responsibility for global human rights, the delegation of Sweden and USA have pushed forward to establish GBV as one, separate development goal in the the post2015-Agenda, demanding full empowerment of women and the rapid stop of impunity on all levels by creating a binding international legal framework. Also the youth should be heard in this process as they have mayor and direct influence on the reduction of GBV in communities. The UK administration lead by good example and launched a National Action Plan on Women, Peace & Security. This joint venture of the Secretaries of Defense, International Development, and Foreign Affairs outlines clear action and legal requirements to achieve the abolishment of GBV sustainably.
“No team can succeed leaving half the team on the bench”
J. F. Kerry, US Secretary of State
The question “Why now?” was often raised understandably enough. One of the big achievements, that earmarks the 21st century so far, is the full empowerment of women in all areas. As shown above, any kind of violence against women undermines these efforts substantially. We do achieved to eradicate Anti-Personnel Mines as legitimate mean of war. So why not write Sexual Violence out of the lexicon of war. It´s just #TimeToAct.
“Do not go silent. Raise your voices. Use your influence
to inspire the next generation of men to honor women.”
Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Special Envoy
IFMSA and Sexual Violence in Conflict
As an outcome of the attendance in this summit IFMSA members from different NMOs have mobilized and joined hands and dedication to assure that IFMSA enhance its involvement in addressing this issue, both through internal capacity building as well as external advocacy. If you as member with any of the IFMSA NMOs wish to participate and take an active role in this working group please contact Liaison Officer of Human Right and Peace for further instructions, [email protected].
For further information / Related Documents:
- IFMSA Violence Against Women Policy Statement
- Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict
- UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace & Secruity
- Video Sequences from the Summit
IFMSA Delegation: Zartash Javaid, Kimberley Bennemeer, Fabian Falkenbach, Moa M Herrgård