“A proper vision of women’s roles in society, and an integration of women in every social sector, are crucial aspects of the prevention of violence.”
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See permanent observer at the United Nations, made this statement when speaking during the Security Council open debate on “Women, peace security” in New York on April 15th.
“Women are not spared any of the brutal consequences of war, and are additionally subject to uniquely degrading and traumatising attacks and long-term consequences,” the archbishop said.
“It is only just and reasonable that their voice should be present and influential in the work of preventing and resolving violence and war,” he stressed, adding, “It is well documented that sexual violence of many kinds accompanies modern warfare.”
“We all know the awful litany: women are raped and trafficked, forced into prostitution to earn a living, and terrorised individually and in their roles as protectors of their children and other vulnerable family members. All violence against human life is terrible, but sexual violence is intended to debase, dehumanise, demoralise – in a unique way.”
Archbishop Auza underscored that the consequences are profound and long lasting, “physical as well as psychological.”
This last year, he said, has been notable for the “new and ongoing atrocities involving sexual violence in various conflicts and by groups such as Boko Haram and the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
Some are also attacks upon women and girls purely because of the faith they profess, he decried, before launching an appeal.
“Although this is of very serious concern today for Christians, surely this is a matter where our shared human nature, across all religions and cultures, cries out for common commitment of members of all faiths and governments, strongly to condemn and confront such heinous acts, and to step forward to protect those threatened.”
“It seems that, in the past several years, there has emerged a greater international consciousness of the scourge of human trafficking, and even increased responses” he continued.
“It is to be hoped,” the prelate said, “that there will be an ever greater appreciation of what Pope Francis has called the ‘trauma,’ affecting both ‘body and spirit’, of rape as a tool of war.”
“To adapt an observation made by His Holiness, a two point drop in the stock market is front page news, while the violation of hundreds or even thousands of women would go unreported.”
The Holy See delegation therefore supports the processes identified in successive reports issued by the Secretary General, he noted, calling such processes “essential” for: ensuring justice to women assaulted in conflict: effective investigation and documentation; consistent and rigorous prosecution; and ongoing investigation and responsibility regarding the root causes of sexual and other violence in armed conflict.
He also said the Church supports efforts to bring adequate legal, medical and social services to the particular women affected, to witnesses and survivors, and to their family members.
“Because of the Catholic Church’s permanent local presence in the areas of the world most affected by disasters, a network of Catholic institutions and agencies respond rapidly and effectively to address the consequence of violence in armed conflict.”
Regardless, he said, “It is always distressing, however, to see that some are still promoting the abortion of unborn children as part of the ‘treatment’ or response to the attack of their mothers. This contradicts the peace and security mission of the United Nations, and proposes to meet violence with more violence.”
“It has been observed many times at this body, and it is true, that women are not only victims but also necessary agents and contributors in the work of preventing and resolving conflicts,” he stressed. “Without their contributions, government, negotiators and civil society groups can neither understand the problems, nor propose effective solutions.”
Archbishop Auza concluded, saying, “Moreover, it is important to continue in every member state the steady and patient work of achieving structural justice for women in every sector of society.” (D.C.L.)
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