By Robin Gomes
The Holy See has once more denounced crimes of sexual violence in conflict against women, men, girls and boys, saying such egregious acts can never be weapons of war or considered its spoils.
The Holy See also reiterated its stand that children conceived and born of sexual violence have the right to exist and be born, and that they be supported and loved instead of being shamed, stigmatized or banished.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York, made the remarks on April 23 during a UN Security Council open debate on “Women, peace and security: Sexual Violence in Conflict.”
Break the silence
Denouncing the silence surrounding rape and other forms of sexual violence during conflict, the Holy See diplomat said that “impunity is often the norm and consequently victims are often afraid to speak out.” He said this “silence must be broken” and “impunity must give way to accountability, so that there can be justice and reparation.”
Women – peace and security
Archbishop Auza recalled that UN resolution 1325 of October 2000 called on all parties in armed conflict to ensure the protection of women and girls especially from sexual violence and abuse, and called for participation and full involvement of women in all efforts to maintain and promote peace and security.
The Holy See official pointed out that one way of ensuring peace and justice is to let the voices of women and girls be heard. The pain, strength and wisdom of survivors should be recognized and harnessed and they should be considered as experts in peacebuilding.
Archbishop Auza denounced crimes of sexual violence in conflict situations perpetrated by terrorist organizations, other non-State actors, criminal gangs, the armed forces and sometimes even by UN peacekeepers. In this regard, he appreciated measures to help prevent and combat sexual abuse in UN peacekeeping operations.
Right to be born and exist with dignity
The Holy See official also raised the sensitive issue of children conceived and born as a result of sexual violence in conflict. “These children,” he said, “need to be supported and loved, not shamed, stigmatized or banished – or worse still denied the most basic right to exist and be born.” The Holy See diplomat said these children need specific attention and programmes to guarantee their protection and foster healing, reconciliation and full integration.
Tuesday’s Security Council debate adopted resolution 2467 in a vote with 13 in favour to none against, with China and Russia abstaining. It was a watered-down version of the original draft in which language on providing “sexual and reproductive health care” to survivors of rape and abuse was eliminated to gain US support.