Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (PANA) – In the first-ever global collaboration involving Nobel Peace Laureates, international advocacy organizations and groups working in conflict zones will this week launch the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict, it was officially announced Sunday.
According to a statement which Nobel Peace Laureates sent to PANA here, the Campaign will be launched with four target countries -- DR Congo, Kenya, Burma and Colombia -- where immediate attention is needed.
Campaign members, including over 400 organizations around the world, are concerned with the lack of coordination between existing local, national and global efforts to stop rape and other forms of gender violence, the statement said.
Participants in this campaign include Physicians for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, the Global Fund for Women, the Sonke Gender Justice Network, Femmes Africa Solidarite, AIDS Free World, Panzi Hospital and the Women's League of Burma.
"I witnessed the power of women coming together and demanding a stop to violence in Liberia. When we all come together -- men and women side-by-side all around the world, and say no to rape, no to gender inequality -- I believe that we will be able to shake the world into hearing what we have to say," said Leymah Gbowee, the newest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her mobilisation of women which helped end the civil war in Liberia.
Individuals who have pledged support for the Campaign include the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi, Egyptian writer Nawal El Saadawi, former Irish President Mary Robinson and US activist and writer Gloria Steinem.
The Campaign is demanding urgent and bold political leadership to prevent rape in conflict, to protect civilians and rape survivors, and call for justice for all -- including effective prosecution of those responsible.
"How many of us need to be raped before the world says no? Just look at what is happening right now in Mali, DR Congo, Colombia, Burma and so many other countries," said Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate and chair of the Nobel Women's Initiative and co-chair of the Campaign. “We are launching the Campaign to finally bring an end to this senseless violence and bring us all closer to peace."
In conflicts on all continents, rape is used as a weapon against members of both genders as battles increasingly move into communities.
This type of violence is employed by rebel and insurgent groups, armed gangs, as well as government troops with various motives, ranging from tactical to personal.
Rape causes psychological and medical trauma, with reverberations continuing for decades.
While data on rape tends to be highly inaccurate due to the extreme stigma attached to survivors and the failure of reporting mechanisms, it is clear that the problem is pervasive in many conflict zones.
Recent research found that within the entire DR Congo, more than 400,000 women were raped between 2006 and 2007.
“The high number demonstrates how gender violence has moved beyond regions where military operations take place and violence is a factor in daily life, with 48 women raped every hour,” said the Nobel Peace Laureates.
On the opposite side of the world in Colombia, the most recent survey on gender violence found that in the 407 municipalities facing active insurgencies, almost 500,000 women reported being raped between 2001-2009 -- six women raped every hour.
Events are being held in a number of conflict countries around the world, including the DR Congo.
A virtual component to the Campaign unites supporters online at www.stoprapeinconflict.org.
All are encouraged to take the pledge in support of the Campaign during the Week of Action, and are also urged to share an action they will take within their own community for the Campaign.
-0- PANA AR/VAO 6May2012