By Phillip Barea
Addis Ababa, January 31, 2011 (Ezega.com) -- H.E. Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, took the opportunity of his presence at this year´s African Union summit to present one of his signature issues and his program to fight against it. The Secretary General has taken serious steps to deal with the problem of sexual violence during armed conflicts.
Accompanied by a learned entourage that included former Chilean President Michelle Bachelette, His Excellency presented Margot Wallstrom of Sweden as his Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
Sexual Violence as a Crime
Ambassador Wallstrom is an expert on the crime of sexual violence, and especially when it is committed during the course of an armed conflict. She highlighted this fact by sharing experiences of working with victims of sexual violence during the brutal civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina that saw the largest case of genocide in Europe since WWII.
Throughout history sexual violence, or rape as it is more commonly known, has been used as a tool of warfare primarily for the dehumanization or psychological destruction of the victim. More importantly, there has been a long and shameful history of impunity for this war crime.
Wallstrom explained the particular effects of sexual violence by stating that: “A wounded soldier is a veteran and celebrated, while a rape victim suffers in silence from an invisible wound that will never heal. She will go to the bank one day and see her attacker standing in line and smiling at her”.
United Nations Position
The Secretary General has decided to create the position of Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict in order to help reverse this history of impunity and play a proactive role in not only ensuring the prosecution of perpetrators, but also creating a support mechanism for awareness raising and prevention.
He proclaimed that there must be concrete consequences for sexual violence, and that perpetrators should be removed from all positions of responsibility and power. Furthermore; in Africa, a continent rife with conflict, the African Union is a key partner in this endeavor.
Many experts agree that for there to be peace, there must be redress for all crimes committed during a conflict. Wallstrom further explained the role of sexual violence in this context when she stated that: “There is no peace without also peace for women”.
Phillip Barea is Addis Ababa based reporter for Ezega.com. He can be reached by sending email through this form.