Nobel physician describes sexual violence in conflicts as a ‘pandemic’


United Nations (AP) – Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege warned Wednesday that the ravages of sexual violence and rape in all conflicts are now a “veritable epidemic” and without sanctions and redress for the victims these horrific acts will not stop.

“We are still far from being able to draw a red line against the use of rape and sexual violence as a strategy to control war and terrorism,” the Congolese doctor told the UN Security Council in a video briefing.

Mukwege called on the international community to “draw a red line against the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war.” He stressed that the “red line” should mean “blacklists with economic, financial and political sanctions, in addition to the prosecutions of the perpetrators and instigators of these terrible crimes.”

Mukwege founded Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, eastern Congo, and for more than 20 years has treated countless women who have been raped amid fighting between armed groups seeking to control some of the central African country’s enormous mineral wealth. He deplored the persistence of sexual violence and impunity.

He shared the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize with activist Nadia Murad, who in 2014 was kidnapped and sold by Islamic State militants into sexual slavery with an estimated 3,000 Yazidi girls and women.

Mukwege said that progress has been made in international law, and the biggest challenge today is to turn commitments into obligations, and Security Council resolutions into results. He said accountability and justice were the “best tools of prevention”, and without punishment and punishment, rape and sexual violence would continue in conflicts.

Mukwege spoke at a council meeting on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s recent report on sexual violence in conflict, which said the COVID-19 pandemic had led to an upsurge in gender-based violence last year. It focused on 18 countries that the United Nations said had verified information that 52 warring parties “reliably suspected” patterns of “rape and other forms of sexual violence” in disputes on the council’s agenda. The majority of the parties are opposition, rebel and terrorist groups – so-called “non-state actors” – and more than 70 percent are “permanent perpetrators.”

In the most recent example, Pramila Patten, the United Nations Special Representative on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, told the council that at present in remote mountainous regions of Ethiopia in northern and central Tigray, where fighting continues between government and leaders fleeing the region, “women and girls are subjected to sexual violence.” Of a level of cruelty that cannot be understood. “

“Health care workers document new cases of rape and gang rape every day, despite their fear of retaliation and attacks on the shelters and limited operating clinics,” Patten said, noting that the report records allegations of more than 100 cases of rape since the fighting began. In November, but it could take months to determine the full scale and scale of the atrocity.

She said the report documents “more than 2,500 UN verified cases of conflict-related sexual violence during the year 2020,” including in the Congo, Central African Republic, Libya, and the Darfur region of western South Sudan.

“Each of these cases deserves justice,” Patten said. “It is time to write a new social contract in which no military or political leader is above the law, and there is no woman or girl under his protection.”

Caroline Atim, director of the Network of Women with Disabilities in South Sudan that represented NGOs focused on women, peace and security, became the first deaf person to provide a briefing to the Security Council. She used sign language in her notes made by an interpreter.

Atim said that despite the 2018 peace agreement, “South Sudan remains mired in sectarian, ethnic, political and armed conflicts where gender-based violence is deliberately used as a tool to humiliate women and girls.”

“More than 65% of South Sudanese women have experienced sexual or physical violence, which is twice the global average and among the highest in the world,” she said, echoing calls to stop sexual violence, an approach that focuses on survivors. To victims, and hold the perpetrators accountable.

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