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Armed Conflicts And Sexual Violence Against Women

Sexual violence is used in a conflict to destroy families and communities by targeting women and girls as a stratagem. Sexual violence can also be an effective tool to break up communities and servitude women through fear and a blot on one's escutcheon. It has always been as a crime against humanity, a war crime and an absolutely unacceptable weapon of war. Regrettably, it is also a very effective weapon of war. Raping, sexually assaulting and mutilating, forcibly impregnating and infecting with HIV/Aids the wives, daughters and mothers of the "enemy" not only have terrible physical and psychological effects on the victims themselves, but are capable of perturbation, if not knock down the community.

The encompassment of rape and sexual slavery as a war crime has been happening since ages. Sexual violence has been persistently put on the internal agenda of the humanitarian community and also as an unavoidable consequence of warfare. Moreover, such violations remain vastly under reported, and underestimated in terms of prevalence and consequences. The humanitarian response to the diverse needs of victims remains insufficient.

This paper mainly focuses on withstanding the keen and profound challenges of working in humanitarian emergencies, our understanding of sexual violence in conflict has always been to an extent that it impedes effective humanitarian action. Little we know that at first humanitarian's reductionist approach to sexual violence not only take no notice of victims other than the stereotypical but also excludes perpetrators from scrutiny including the international humanitarian community itself, through whose extensive political character can be removed of sexual violence has erased the link between gender inequality and violence.

Additionally, this paper explores international humanitarian discourses around sexual violence in armed conflict and its understanding of victims and also discusses an approach for the simultaneous solution for all the impacts discussed above.

"Sexual violence" is used to describe acts of a sexual nature imposed by force, or coercion, such as that caused by fear of violence, duress, detention, psychological oppression or abuse of power directed against any victim- man, woman, boy or girl. Taking advantage of a coercive environment or of the victim's incapacity to give genuine consent is also a form of coercion. Sexual violence encompasses: rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced sterilisation, or any other form of sexual violence of a comparable gravity.

IPC criminalises any act by a person that assaults or uses criminal force against a women with the intention or knowledge that it will outrage her modesty. Under international coverage, sexual violence is defined as any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed against a person's sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work. Such acts rarely occur in isolation. They form part of a pattern of abuse and violence, which includes killing, child recruitment, destruction of property and looting. Sexual violence can be used as a form of reprisal, to create fear, or as a form of torture during warfare.

Thus, sexual violence is a severe human rights violation that happens in a place, and involves violent acts, perpetrators, victims, survivors and impacts ranging from health to a broad array of social consequences. Sexual violence has long been known to occur during war, yet only since the world was exposed end masse to the atrocities committed. This conceptualisation of sexual violence as a 'weapon of war' has become ubiquitous in much of the media accounts and scholarly work on conflicts, using descriptions such as 'strategy' of a country or a military base and even as a 'bio-political strategy of war' by which armed combatants symbolically cross enemy lines. UN Security council resolution 1820 states that sexual violence is a 'tactic of war', in which civilian populations are deliberately targeted as 'part of strategic attack'.

Sexual violence as an 'instrument of genocide'. Sexual violence has been addressed as a weapon of war but at times it could rebound (Buss 2014) by increasing its value as a tool to 'fundamentally unravel the fabric of society'. The notion of instrumentality risks designing humanitarian programmes that engage with the limited understanding of sexual violence as perpetrated by armed combatants. An example of this can be taken from Henttonen et al who found that services for sexual violence victims in northern Uganda exclusively targeted those that had been violated by armed combatants, even though violence from known perpetrators was much more prevalent.

In the preamble of the resolution, the Council expressed concern at the slow progress on the issue of sexual violence in armed conflict, particularly against women and children. Moreover, despite calls to all parties involved in conflict and condemnation, such acts continued to occur. It reminded all states to comply with international law and for leaders to demonstrate commitment to prevent sexual violence, combat impunity and uphold accountability, as inaction would send the wrong message. Perpetrators of war crimes and genocide had to prosecuted, emphasising the primary responsibility of states to respect and ensure human rights of people within their territory.

The resolution noted that ending impunity was essential if a society was to recover from conflict, and in this regard, there needed to be better access to health care, psychosocial support, legal assistance and the needs of persons with disabilities. The Council recalled the number of sexual offences in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. It welcomed attempts to address the issue in peacekeeping missions, including tackling sexual violence and promoting the role of women in civil and military functions.

The Council condemned the widespread and systematic use of sexual abuse against the civilian population in situations of armed conflict, and that taking steps to combat it would contribute towards the maintenance of international peace and security. It called for an end to all acts of sexual violence. The Secretary-General was asked to include information on parties suspected to be responsible for acts of rape or other acts of sexual violence, which the Council would use to engage with the parties or take action against them. The list would be made public.

The resolution asked parties to armed conflict to make commitments against the use of sexual violence and investigations into alleged abuses, which the Secretary-General was asked to monitor. The Council stated its intention to designate criteria pertaining to acts of rape and other forms of sexual violence when reviewing or adopting sanctions. Meanwhile, the Secretary-General was instructed to devise monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements on conflict-related sexual violence, while ensuring full transparency.

The Security Council praised the work of gender advisers and looked forward to the appointment of women protection advisers in peacekeeping missions. States were encouraged to use scenario-based training materials provided by the Secretary-General before the deployment of peacekeeping operations, with the Council pledging to pay attention to sexual violence in mandate renewals and authorisations. Furthermore, states were asked deploy greater numbers of female police and military personnel in peacekeeping operations.

Finally, the Secretary-General was asked to strengthen the policy of zero tolerance on sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations personnel, and report regularly to the Council on progress in implementing the current resolution.

In December 2010, noting that sexual violence during armed conflict remains systematic, rampant, and widespread, the Security Council unanimously adopted a new resolution, Resolution 1960 (2010). This resolution creates institutional tools and teeth to combat impunity and outlines specific steps needed for both the prevention of and protection from sexual violence in conflict. The new "naming and shaming," listing mechanism mandated in the Resolution is a step forward in bringing justice for victims and a recognition that sexual violence is a serious violation of human rights and international law. However, for now, listing is only limited to situations on the Security Council's agenda. The Resolution was negotiated under the US Presidency (as were both SCR 1820 & 1888), and it covers the main recommendations in the Secretary-General's report (S/2010/604).

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2122:

Adopted in October 2013, this resolution creates stronger measures to include women in peace-processes and calls for regular briefings and reports on Women, Peace and Security issues to various organizations and members of the United Nations. Furthermore, this resolution states that in moving forward, the Security Council and United Nations missions will increase their attention to issues on Women, Peace and Security, and when establishing or renewing mandates to include provisions that promote gender equality and female empowerment.

Reaffirming its commitment to the continuing and full implementation, in a mutually reinforcing manner, of resolutions 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010) and 2106 (2013) and all relevant statements of its President,

Recalling the commitments of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and reaffirming the obligations of States Parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Optional Protocol thereto, and urging States that have not yet done so to consider ratifying or acceding to them,

Bearing in mind the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the primary responsibility of the Security Council under the Charter for the maintenance of international peace and security, and noting the focus of this resolution is, in this regard, the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda,

Reaffirming that women's and girls' empowerment and gender equality are critical to efforts to maintain international peace and security, and emphasizing that persisting barriers to full implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) will only be dismantled through dedicated commitment to women's empowerment, participation, and human rights, and through concerted leadership, consistent information and action, and support, to build women's engagement in all levels of decision-making,

Taking note with appreciation the report of the Secretary-General of 4 September 2013 and the progress and emergence of good practice across several areas, including in prevention and protection, and the significant heightening of policy and operational focus on the monitoring, prevention and prosecution of violence against women in armed conflict and post-conflict situations, but remaining deeply concerned about persistent implementation deficits in the women, peace and security agenda, including in: protection from human rights abuses and violations; opportunities for women to exercise leadership; resources provided to address their needs and which will help them exercise their rights; and the capacities and commitment of all actors involved in the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) and subsequent resolutions to advance women's participation and protection,

Expressing concern at women's exacerbated vulnerability in armed conflict and post-conflict situations particularly in relation to forced displacement, as a result of unequal citizenship rights, gender biased application of asylum laws, and obstacles to registering and accessing identity documents which occur in many situations,

Expressing deep concern at the full range of threats and human rights violations and abuses experienced by women in armed conflict and post-conflict situations, recognizing that those women and girls who are particularly vulnerable or disadvantaged may be specifically targeted or at increased risk of violence, and recognizing in this regard that more must be done to ensure that transitional justice measures address the full range of violations and abuses of women's human rights, and the differentiated impacts on women and girls of these violations and abuses as well as forced displacement, enforced disappearances, and destruction of civilian infrastructure,

Recognizing the importance of Member States and United Nations entities seeking to ensure humanitarian aid and funding includes provision for the full range of medical, legal, psychosocial and livelihood services to women affected by armed conflict and post-conflict situations, and noting the need for access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services, including regarding pregnancies resulting from rape, without discrimination,

Reiterating its strong condemnation of all violations of international law committed against and/or directly affecting civilians, including women and girls in armed conflict and post-conflict situations, including those involving rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, killing and maiming, obstructions to humanitarian aid, and mass forced displacement,

Recognizing that States bear the primary responsibility to respect and ensure the human rights of all persons within their territory and subject to their jurisdiction as provided for by international law, and reaffirming that parties to armed conflict bear the primary responsibility to ensure the protection of civilians,

Reaffirming that sustainable peace requires an integrated approach based on coherence between political, security, development, human rights, including gender equality, and rule of law and justice activities, and in this regard emphasizing the importance of the rule of law as one of the key elements of conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peacebuilding,

Recognizing the need for more systematic attention to the implementation of women, peace and security commitments in its own work, particularly to ensure the enhancement of women's engagement in conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding, and noting in this regard the need for timely and systematic reporting on women, peace and security,

Taking note of the critical contributions of civil society, including women's organizations to conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding and in this regard the importance of sustained consultation and dialogue between women and national and international decision makers,

Recognizing the need to address the gaps and strengthen links between the United Nations peace and security in the field, human rights and development work as a means to address root causes of armed conflict and threats to the security of women and girls in the pursuit of international peace and security,

Recognizing that the economic empowerment of women greatly contributes to the stabilization of societies emerging from armed conflict, and welcoming the Peacebuilding Commission's declaration on women's economic empowerment for peacebuilding of 26 September 2013 (PBC/7/OC/L.1),

Acknowledging the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty and noting the provisions in Article 7(4) of the Treaty that exporting States Parties shall take into account the risk of covered conventional arms or items being used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children,

Looking forward to the important contribution that implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty can make to reducing violence perpetrated against women and girls in armed conflict and post-conflict situations,

Welcoming the efforts of Member States, and recognizing the efforts of regional and subregional organizations, in implementing resolution 1325 (2000) and subsequent women, peace and security resolutions at the regional, national and local levels, including the development of action plans and implementation frameworks, and encouraging Member States to continue to pursue such implementation, including through strengthened monitoring, evaluation and coordination

Beijing Declaration:

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. Thousands of activists and other participants flocked to the conference in 1995 to discuss gender equality and the promotion of women's rights. Representatives from 189 governments[1] and members of non-governmental organizations collaborated in order to determine the best guidelines for promoting women's rights around the world. The Platform for Action was the result of their discussion and remains an integral document in the global fight for women's rights.

The Platform for Action reaffirms the fundamental principal that the rights of women and girls are an "inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights." The Platform for Action also calls upon governments to take action to address several critical areas of concern, including violence against women. The Platform for Action states:

"Violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace. Violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The long-standing failure to protect and promote those rights and freedoms in the case of violence against women is a matter of concern to all States and should be addressed. In all societies, to a greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture. The low social and economic status of women can be both a cause and a consequence of violence against women."

International Federation Of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies(Ifrc):

The Responsibility to Prevent and Respond to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Disasters and Crises, shows a rise in risks including sexual harassment, child marriage, child sexual abuse, domestic violence and trafficking in Indonesia, Laos and the Philippines.

IFRC Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Adviser and the report's lead author Dr Priyanka Bhalla said: "Sadly, all the communities we spoke to told us they faced increased sexual and gender-based violence after disasters.

"Those most at risk were adolescent girls, followed by adolescent boys and older women. The effects were often life-threatening and affected survivors' daily life, dignity, rights, livelihoods and health."

One third of respondents in the Philippines said that women and girls felt distressed by the rise in child marriage after disaster. People were also worried about trafficking, over-crowding in shelters and the lack of support for lesbian women, gay men, transgender, intersex and queer people after disasters.

In Indonesia, only 3 per cent of people had adequate legal information for problems including domestic violence, sexual harassment in temporary housing and a lack of inclusion for people with disabilities. In Laos, 43 per cent of respondents had heard of someone needing medical care for domestic violence injuries after disaster. Twenty-seven per cent were aware of someone who had been raped following a disaster.

Although one in three women faces physical or sexual violence during her lifetime, after disasters the risk goes up because of a breakdown in essential services, increased poverty, poor emergency shelter design and inadequate coordination by disaster responders.

The report calls on governments, aid agencies and communities to protect people by ensuring that evacuation centres have separate spaces for women and men, separate and lockable toilets, and adequate lighting. Disaster responders should improve coordination and collaboration by working with local agencies that specialize in treating and supporting survivors of sexual violence. In the longer term, all disaster responders should address the root causes of sexual and gender-based violence, which are gender inequality and abuse of power.

Sexual violence is tragically prevalent in many modern conflicts. The ICRC is committed to further increasing its efforts in the prevention of this devastating violation and to provide assistance to the victims. This article examines the nature of sexual violence, the needs of the victims, the ICRC's work in terms of prevention, protection and assistance as well as the legal basis for the prohibition of sexual violence.

Geneva Conventions (1949)
Common Article 3(1)(c) of the 1949 Geneva Conventions provides that "outrages upon personal dignity" are prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to persons hors de combat.

Geneva Convention:

Article 27, second paragraph, of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV provides: "Women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault."

Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others

Article 1 of the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others provides:

The Parties to the present Convention agree to punish any person who �
  1. Procures, entices or leads away, for purposes of prostitution, another person, even with the consent of that person;
  2. Exploits the prostitution of another person, even with the consent of that person.

Conclusion And Suggestion:
Unfortunately, we have not been able to witness any change in the scenario even at present. One of the most common features of the contemporary conflicts was widespread sexual violence and use of rape as a tool of destruction. For instance, even the in the 2000s, Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army made use of sexual violence as their military strategy to spread terror and tension among civilians. Further, in Sudan, rape and other forms of sexual violence have been perpetrated, mainly by government forces, to destroy family and community networks and to force dwellers out of resource-rich areas by instilling fear.

This paper has analyzed the legal development of the concept of sexual violence in armed conflicts in the field of international humanitarian law. IHL explicitly prohibits sexual violence and its other forms. Most importantly it calls for respect towards fellow beings and further reflecting the historical value of prohibition from the times when IHL developed. This prohibition further applies to both international and non-international armed conflicts, as per the rules of customary IHL.

It is also seen that as per the international armed conflicts, sexual violence and such offenses constitute "grave breach" of the international humanitarian law and it is seen to be an act of "willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health". Therefore, taking all this into consideration, IHL considers sexual violence to be a war crime entailing State Responsibility.

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