NEWS FROM WPD, PARTNERS & ASSOCIATES

A Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict was agreed on Thursday, April 11th, 2013 by the G8 countries.
It states that rape and other serious sexual violence amount to war crimes and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. This constitutes an emphatic reminder that states are required to investigate and prosecute conflict-related sexual violence wherever it occurs.

Widows for Peace through Democracy – [WPD] welcomes this landmark Declaration but calls on states to ensure that, in enacting comprehensive laws to make this Declaration effective, they address the particular vulnerability of widows, wives of the disappeared and their children, sons as well as daughters, to sexual violence in conflict and post conflict environments, whose poverty, low status, and powerlessness makes them targets for such crimes even long after peace accords have been agreed.

In many conflict and revolution afflicted countries widows are denied any rights to inheritance, property, land, and many find themselves in refugee and IDP camps. In these, struggling to survive without any adult male protector, they are continually at risk of sexual violence, forced prostitution, trafficking for sex work. The stigma attached to widowhood in many cultures is multiplied when widows are also victims of rape as happened in Rwanda, and is occurring now in the DRC, in Iraq, Sri Lanka and in Syria, to give just a few examples.

In order to protect and eliminate sexual violence – and all other forms of physical, psychological, economic and social violence to widows, comprehensive legislation should also criminalise all perpetrators of acts that deprive widows of their basic human rights that makes them such vulnerable targets., For example, in the context of harmful and life threatening mourning and burial rites which may condone such practices as forced remarriage of widows (widow inheritance).

Concerns over gaps in Declaration Language

The Declaration only appears to apply to sexual violence that occurs in international armed conflicts, and not to “internal” conflicts where sexual violence is used as a weapon to silence non-violent political opposition, or eradicate the culture of minority and liberation groups. Police, Gendarmerie, and security forces within countries should be made accountable for sexual violence, threats of sexual violence, and sexual torture, and governments must also be responsible for such acts committed in their name.

WPD requests, for example, the G8 to address as an urgent priority, the plight and continued suffering of the many TAMIL widows and wives of the disappeared in Sri Lanka, who have been victims of gang rape by police and security forces of the GOS (Government of Sri Lanka), and who continue to be targeted in this way. Similarly, women who are members of minority, indigenous or liberation movement communities, are victims of sexual violence, particularly when they are confined in detention by police and gendarmerie.

WPD requests the G8 to use all its considerable influence to end sexual violence in conflict whether committed in internal or international armed conflicts, and should not allow any State to plead “sovereignty” as an excuse to avoid responsibility to prevent and eliminate sexual violence within its borders. There must be no safe haven for perpetrators of these acts.

WPD furthermore requests that the G8 works to ensure that those seeking asylum from regimes where they have been victims of sexual violence are accorded every possible assistance, understanding and services, including legal aid to support their claims and not deported back to jurisdictions where they risk suffering further torture, assault, disappearance or death.