By Thea Rømmen
CSW57: Sexual and Gender-Based Violence as a Method of Warfare Panel
Permanent representatives of Liberia, Liechtenstein and the U.S.A introduced and stressed their countries’ commitment to the cause of reducing sexual violence as a method of war. The Hon. Julia Duncan-Cassell of Liberia spoke on the many forms of violence particularly on women during the civil war in Liberia – torture, amputations, abductions, rape, killings. Women were forced into prostitution and slavery, and forced to witness sexual violence committed to their family members. In Liberia, the menace of sexual violence in war has, due to its effectiveness, proven exceptionally difficult to combat.
The panel itself was moderated by Emira Woods.
Niemat Ahmadi, of a women’s group in North Darfur, presented a very engaging and distressing video of personal testimonies and consequences of sexual violence in the Darfur conflict. She said, the support of the international community is very important to propel change in domestic actors (funding, resources, empowerment of domestic actors) – the situation on the ground remains extremely distraught for women.
Zainab Hawa Bangura of Sierra Leone, former foreign minister of that country, is the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Rape must be recognized, leadership must be established and the international community must coordinate. Services and support must however also be established! Survivor centers, holistic multi-sectoral services are of the essence!
Karen Mosoti, the head of the liaison office of the International Criminal Court. International community’s main effort: different types of prosecution, mandate of the prosecutor to choose. Ms. Mosoti shed light on the formal responsibilities, limitations and liberties of the ICC. The ICC is currently investigating eight cases of gender-based violence, many of which are against political leaders in Africa.
To me, the main take-away from this panel was that the efforts of the international community do matter and are effective in effecting change in local communities. The formal-political, through the institutionalization of law on war crimes and in supporting survivor centers, is very important, but the social-informational, which works among other ways through spreading information and by empowerment, has aided local groups in several African states. The destruction that sexual violence as a method of warfare brings is apparent and tremendous. As one Bosnian survivor said, “they have taken my life without killing me.” This is an area of violence against women and girls where the international community can be the most effective.