19 June: International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict
The third annual International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict was observed across the world on June 19, 2018.
2018 Theme: “The Plight and Rights of Children Born of War”
The day aims to foster solidarity with the survivors who endure multiple, intersecting stigmas in the wake of sexual violence, including the stigma of association with a terrorist group and of bearing children conceived through rape by the enemy.
These women and children are often viewed as affiliates, rather than victims, of armed and violent extremist groups.
• The International Day was commemorated with a panel discussion at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
• The event included reflections on how the lessons of history can be applied to contemporary conflict and post-conflict societies, in which women and children released from violent extremist groups struggle to reintegrate into their respective families and communities.
• The event also considered strategies such as enlisting religious and traditional leaders to help change harmful social norms and dispel the perception that these women and children were involved in the crimes committed by their captors.
What does it mean?
The term refers to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilisation, forced marriage and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity committed against women, men, girls or boys that are directly or indirectly linked to a conflict.
The term also includes trafficking of people in situations of conflict for the purpose of sexual violence or exploitation.
• The impact of conflict-related sexual violence is seen across generations, through trauma, fatal stigma, poverty, poor health and unwanted pregnancy.
• The stigma associated with sexual violence can have life-long, and sometimes lethal, repercussions for both survivors and children conceived through rape.
• The children born from sexual violence are often labelled as ‘bad blood’ or ‘children of the enemy’.
• The children often struggle with issues of identity and belonging for decades after the end of the war and they are rarely accepted by the society.
• On the other hand, unsafe abortions are a leading cause of maternal mortality in conflict-affected settings.
How to alleviate the stigma?
Socio-economic reintegration support with the aim of alleviating the stigma and mend the social fabric can assist in post-conflict reconstruction and recovery efforts.
The United Nations General Assembly on June 19, 2015 proclaimed the day as the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict to:
- Raise awareness of the need to put an end to conflict-related sexual violence.
- Honour the victims and survivors of sexual violence around the world.
- Pay tribute to all those who have courageously devoted their lives to and lost their lives in standing up for the eradication of these crimes.