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News+Politics
G8 Calls Sexual Violence In Military Conflicts A War Crime
April 11, 2013
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G8-calls-sexual-violence-in-military-conflicts-a-war-crime-feature4.jpg
In eastern Congo, a young girl who was gang raped stands with boys whose mothers were sexually attacked

Rape and sexual violence have long been used as a weapon of war. Today, the G8 countries took a potential step forward in the fight to stop it.

The G8 foreign ministers officially condemned that kind of violence as war crimes and violations of the Geneva Conventions and international law.

They also promised $36 million in additional funding to help prevent sexual violence and ensure justice for its survivors, with $5 million of that from Canada.

Some of the money will be used to train military personnel on how to respond to sexual violence, as they often reach survivors first.

G8-calls-sexual-violence-in-military-conflicts-a-war-crime-feature3.jpg British Foreign Secretary William Hague, the host of the G8 meeting in London, called the use of rape as a war tactic "one of the greatest and most persistent injustices" in the world.

"This in my mind is the slave trade of our generation," Hague said. "Now that we have put war-zone rape on the international agenda, it must never slip off it again and it must be given even greater prominence."

Hague said the ministers agreed to set up international standards, to make countries responsible to search for and prosecute anyone accused of such crimes.

As well, Hague said when peace agreements are signed, they wouldn't be allowed to include any amnesties for sexual violence.

Angelina Jolie, the UN special envoy for refugees, and the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Bangura, were at the meeting.

G8-calls-sexual-violence-in-military-conflicts-a-war-crime-feature2.jpg Jolie called today's announcement "long overdue", saying for too long political will has been "sorely lacking."

Survivors of sexual violence have been "the forgotten victims" of wars in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere, she said. "Today, I believe that their voices have been heard."

Rape has been used as a weapon of war in several conflicts, including in Syria, Libya, Bosnia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The BBC has uncovered evidence in the DRC that government soldiers were ordered last year to rape women by their commanding officers.

As correspondent Anne Mawathe writes, "this weapon was about to be unleashed on the civilian population by the very people who are meant to protect them - the Congolese army."

She says the soldiers were angry and humiliated after being forced to retreat in a battle with rebels, so they took it out on women with "extreme brutality".

You can watch her full report below, but a warning - it is disturbing and upsetting.

The BBC has another report about sexual violence against children during Liberia's 14-year civil war, which lasted until 2003.

The host of BBC Radio 4's Today programme, James Naughtie, spent last week in Liberia as it confronts the horror of its past and brings it into the open. You can listen to that here.

As well, the Guardian has a piece entitled 'Want To Stop Sexual Violence In War? Confront Everyday Inequality' by Geoffrey Dennis, chief executive of Care International UK.

Dennis writes...

"While I am broadly supportive of what Hague is attempting to do, I think his approach is too narrow - simply attempting to tackle violence in war does not go far enough. This violence runs through many societies because of the blatant inequality between men and women.

The foreign secretary believes that the way to stop this violence is to increase prosecutions, to stop impunity, or men "getting away with it". This should act as a deterrent , he believes.

But women are not going to come forward to police, make statements and give evidence in court unless they are properly supported. In the immediate aftermath of an attack - by a stranger during an outbreak of violence or in a displacement camp - a woman needs medical attention and psycho-social support. Once these are supplied, she needs financial stability to get on with her life and legal advice to take her case to the authorities, without fear of reprisals from the men involved. Without this, prosecutions will fail."

You can read his full piece here.

And there's this piece for the Huffington Post entitled 'G8 - Sexual Violence Lives On After War' by Tanya Barron, the Chief Executive of Plan UK.

She writes...

"Sexual violence can be as devastating after war as during it. Once the shooting has stopped, millions of girls and women are forced to live with a legacy of violence. Family networks are shattered. Social services that were in place pre-wartime have gone. Men and women are living with post-traumatic stress and, often, rape and sexual violence have sadly become commonplace."

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