Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, on April 16, 2018, spoke of the need to prevent and address conflict-related sexual violence. His remarks came during the Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace, and Security at the United Nations in New York.
While the international community has made progress on increasing women’s role in peace and security, he said, women still suffer far too frequently from sexual violence during conflict. Preventing sexual violence begins with preventing conflict in the first place, he stated. Efforts to deter sexual violence against women should be an integral part of peacekeeping operations. Post-conflict situations are often chaotic, lawless and dangerous, facilitating violence against women, and need to be remedied with education, economic development, and social advancement. Survivors of violence in conflict should receive comprehensive assistance to recover and reintegrate and States should ensure the prosecution of perpetrators. Violence against women in normal daily situations, Archbishop Auza added, should also be addressed.
His intervention follows.
The Holy See wishes to thank the Peruvian Presidency for putting a needed spotlight on conflict-related sexual violence and on how it can be prevented and effectively addressed.
Since the Council adopted resolution 1325 (2000), the first-ever resolution on women, peace, and security, the international community has developed a strong framework to facilitate women’s increased role in peace and security and has achieved important results and made substantial progress, in spite of the increasing challenges and complexities of the international security landscape.
On the side of the victims of conflict, however, women still suffer far too frequently, in particular from sexual violence perpetrated during conflict. Collective national and international efforts are greatly needed if the fight to minimize and end violence, in particular, sexual violence, against women is to be won.
First, ever-greater resources and focus must be dedicated to conflict prevention. The Holy See supports the efforts of the Security Council, within the limits of its mandate under the Charter of the United Nations, actively to encourage the Member States to settle their disputes through dialogue and negotiation. There is no better means to protect women from violence during conflict than preventing the eruption of conflict itself. Attention must be given to ensuring that women’s voices are heard and their effective participation is availed of throughout the whole process.
Second, the prevention of every form of violence against women in conflict and the protection of their legitimate rights and interests should be an integral part of peacekeeping operations. The importance of integrating women in peacekeeping missions can also be seen from this perspective. Host countries should be helped to prioritize the prevention of violence against women during conflict, ensuring the inclusion and active participation of women in all stages of peace processes.
Third, heightened attention and efforts to prevent violence against women should be sustained in post-conflict situations, which, more often than not, remain chaotic, lawless and dangerous, and are thus environments that enable and facilitate violence against women. With the goal of eliminating the root causes of conflict, the international community should actively help post-conflict countries to promote education, economic and social development, and to ensure that the dividends of peace and development benefit the entire population.
Regarding access to education, the Catholic Church has a long and proud history of placing great emphasis on providing young women and girls with access to quality education. Today, young women and girls constitute the majority of students in Catholic educational institutions at every level throughout the world. This is true, in particular, in regions where women and girls still suffer discrimination and in areas where there are ongoing conflicts. For instance, almost 80 percent of the students of the Bethlehem University, a Catholic institution, are young Palestinian women. They become educators and professionals who contribute greatly to the peace and harmony in families and societies.
Survivors of violence in conflict should receive comprehensive assistance to ensure that they are able to recover fully from such violations and to reintegrate into their societies. States should maximize their efforts on both the national and international levels to ensure prosecution of the perpetrators of these crimes. The International Criminal Court plays a key role in this regard by judging crimes that have been recognized by the Rome Statute as war crimes and crimes against humanity, including those that may constitute crimes of genocide.
Women and girls suffer many forms of violence not only in situations of conflict, but also in what we could call “normal daily situations.” As Pope Francis, however, said during his visit in Puerto Maldonado (Peru): “Violence against women cannot be treated as ‘normal,’ maintaining a culture of machismo blind to the leading role that women play in our communities. It is not right for us (…) to look the other way and let the dignity of so many women, especially young women, be trampled upon.”
The Holy See is working with the rest of the international community to continue pursuing the goals of women in peace and security. Their role must be recognized and valued and their participation assured. Without the input and specific skills of women, the most comprehensive understanding possible of the causes of conflicts and the most effective solutions to end them and build peace cannot be attained, and an effective prevention of conflict-related sexual violence against women could hardly be achieved.
Thank you, Mr. President.
1. Pope Francis, Greeting at the Jorge Basadre Institute, Puerto Maldonado (Peru), 19 January 2018.
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