AU Summit: UN chief urges end to sexual violence against women

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - The international community in general and men in particular must understand that sexual violence against women is a crime and that everybody has the responsibility to fight it wherever it takes place, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said here Monday.

"We are now addressing this problem globally and leaders of all countries where sexual violence is prevalent should have this issue clearly in their mind," Ban said at a press conference held on the sidelines of the 16th ordinary session of the African Union (AU) Assembly of heads of state and government.

The UN chief specifically called journalists to brief them on the steps being taken by the Security Council to combat sexual violence by involving the international community to stop all perpetrators of this crime against women and children, saying the Council resolution on the matter had an in-built accountability system.

"After many years of discussions, UN member states have decided to create one entity for dealing with issues related to equality and empowerment of women," said Ban, explaining that since his appointment as secretary-general, he had increased on average by 40 per cent the number of women in top ranks at the world body.

"We want to see women not as victims but as agents of change in every area," he stressed.

Ban challenged the media to communicate the UN message on fighting sexual violence, saying: "If you are committed, you can play an important role to educate the general public and disseminate this message. We believe that men should change their mentality to prevent sexual violence."

As from December, 2010, the UN is pursuing a four-track approach in combating sexual violence against women that entails monitoring and reporting incidents more effectively; listing, naming and shaming perpetrators; travel ban and assets freeze; and ending impunity to identified perpetrators of the crime, said Margot Wallstrom, UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

"Sexual violence against women is a global problem but on this continent [Africa], this is a phenomenon we have to stop immediately in conflict areas. This is a weapon of choice because it is cheap, silent and very effective," Wallstrom said, noting that African leaders also agreed that it was criminal.  

According to the official, the UN has set an agenda on which it would collaborate with governments and non-governmental organisations to provide training to the military, the police and civilians to end sexual violence and empower women.

In areas of conflict, Wallstrom said there should be no peace deals made without women participation on the negotiating table.

"For all countries in election mood, this is something we can keep an eye on," she said, observing that in many local conflicts and fighting over common natural resources, women often ended up "not as fighters but as victims of rape on the front line".

Speaking at the same press conference, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operation, Alain Le Roy, said in the case of DR Congo, where sexual violence has been rampant, women had been given free cell and satellite phones to call for help or report such cases.

"I don't think that we can stop it completely but we are making progress," said Le Roy, who asserted that women had a major role to play in combating sexual violence in areas of conflict.

According to Ban, increased presence of female police in Liberia has improved reporting and response to incidents of sexual violence against women.

"Sexual violence has been part of fighting, ending it must be part of making peace," he added.
-0- PANA AR/BOS 31Jan2011

31 january 2011 20:29:34

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