Gender-based violence in conflict: a global problem

Two Kenyan women holding hands Two Kenyan women holding hands © Photo by John McArthur on Unsplash

In Focus by Sofia Antonelli; Editor: Shrabya Ghimire

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, informed the Security Council’s quarterly debate on women, peace, and security, on the peaking trends in misogyny and sexual violence on women worldwide. With the Covid-19 pandemic raging across the world, Member States are dealing with economic shocks which compromise the allocation of resources towards protection programmes and health care for victims of sexual and gender-based violence. Mrs. Patten urged for “an injection of political resolve” to halt sexual violence in conflict areas where it is still deliberately used as a tactic of war, torture, and terror, and where humanitarian workers are increasingly reporting new cases daily. Also, the UN’s Representative argued for a paradigm shift towards human resilience in the allocation of resources in the post-covid world.

During the occasion, Mrs. Patten and the Member States Representatives highlighted many issues concerning the weaponization of gender-based violence on women and girls in high-risk conflict areas. Indeed, there is a general frustration common to all Council members, for the global community’s lack of progress on the matter. The main issue highlighted by the Council’s Member States was the need for a survivor-centred approach that includes access to medical care, social support, and legal services which also considers the needs of disabled people. Moreover, calling for an end to impunity for perpetrators, the Council discussed the need to strengthen the existing international legal prosecution mechanisms. Other points raised during the debate were the importance of addressing conflict-related sexual violence in ceasefires, peace agreements, and monitoring mechanisms, as well as the implementation of measures to address the root causes of sexual violence in conflict. Also, the Representatives of Niger and Tunisia, took the floor to raise attention on the often-disregarded existing link between gender-based violence and terrorism which translates into human trafficking and kidnapping of women and girls to force them to become sex slaves or human bombs.

To end the scourge of sexual violence in armed conflicts, the global community should engage in a holistic, intersectional approach that puts the rights and voices of survivors at the centre of any response to gender-based violence. Equally important is to adopt a comprehensive approach to tackle the root causes of sexual violence; the lack of educational opportunities for girls, and the full and equal participation of women in decision-making and peace processes. States bear the primary responsibility to address sexual violence, however, it is the responsibility of the United Nation to provide development assistance, capacity-building, technical support, and training in this regard.


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