United Nations Delcares Sexual Violence to be Tactic of War

Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously declared sexual violence to be a tactic of war. (h/t SAFER)

Maj. Gen. Patrick Cammaert, a former U.N. peacekeeping commander, told the meeting: “It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in an armed conflict.”

Speakers identified former Yugoslavia, Sudan’s Darfur region, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Liberia as conflict regions where deliberate sexual violence had occurred on a mass scale.

U.N. officials have said the problem is currently worst in eastern Congo. But a recent survey of 2,000 women and girls in Liberia showed 75 percent had been raped during the West African country’s civil war.

A U.S.-sponsored resolution adopted unanimously by the council called sexual violence “a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.”

It said the violence “can significantly exacerbate situations of armed conflict and may impede the restoration of international peace and security.”

It called on parties to conflict to take immediate measures to protect civilians from sexual violence, said such crimes should be excluded from amnesty after conflicts, and warned that the council would consider special measures against parties that commit them when imposing or renewing sanctions.

It’s also heartening to note that U.S. Secretary of State Condelezza Rice was the champion of the resolution.

The United States, council president for June, chose sexual violence as the theme of the month’s debate on a general issue. As well as Rice, several government ministers replaced ambassadors as their countries’ representatives.

Opening the debate, Rice noted there had long been dispute about whether the theme was a security issue and hence something the Security Council was authorized to address.

“I am proud that today we respond to that lingering question with a resounding ‘yes’,” she said. “This world body now acknowledges that sexual violence in conflict zones is indeed a security concern.

“We affirm that sexual violence profoundly affects not only the health and safety of women but the economic and social stability of their nations.”

But. (Oh, there’s always a but.) While I really, really want to be happy about this — after all, it’s big news, right? A historic moment! — I feel a distinct sense of discontentment. For fuck’s sake, people, it’s 2008. I mean, do we understand this? Two thousand eight. Two thousand fucking eight. And we’re just finally getting around to this . . . now? It took until 2008 for the United Nations to recognize sexual violence as a weapon of war? What the hell is wrong with this picture? I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I really can’t let this pass without comment. It’s bad enough that sexual violence is a weapon of war, and that for the most part, we clearly don’t give a shit. We couldn’t even bother to put it down on paper? What kind of world are we dealing with? And we’re supposed to be grateful for it?

More than that, though, I’m skeptical about how much of a “gift” it is, anyway. There’s the simple fact that I don’t trust U.N. resolutions to actually, well, do anything. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see whether or not any effort is actually made towards implementation. But the cracks are already showing.

The resolution had been negotiated for weeks between council members and with human rights and women’s groups. Diplomats said China and Russia, which both voted in favour, had watered down some language, including on sanctions.

Chinese Deputy Ambassador Liu Zhenmin told the council it should focus on preventing conflicts in the first place and that sexual violence “should not be treated as a stand-alone issue, nor should attention be given to its symptoms only.”

The problem is of course, Darfur. Russia and China have helped to arm the genocide in Darfur and have opposed or directly undermined any real effort on behalf of the U.N. to intervene in the conflict. The fact that Darfur is one of the areas where rape is most widely being used as a war tactic is no coincidence here.

Oh, and then there’s the little issue of the U.N. itself being part of the problem. And while the role of U.N. peacekeepers in perpetuating sexual violence is acknowledged in the resolution, self-policing always seems particularly difficult to actually pull off.

You can read more, including the full resolution, here. Perhaps someone with a bit more knowledge on this sort of thing can give it a read and let us know whether or not it has any real teeth. Am I just being hugely pessimistic? What do others think?

cross-posted from Feministe

0 thoughts on “United Nations Delcares Sexual Violence to be Tactic of War

  1. Renee

    A U.S.-sponsored resolution adopted unanimously by the council called sexual violence “a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.”

    While I think that it is wonderful that this resolution was passed the fact that they single out African countries is troubling. Yes this is where the majority of the war related rapes are happening but this does not mean that western soldiers have not been guilty of the same thing. Many atrocities have been committed by Canadian, British, and American soldiers in an attempt to maintain western hegemony.

    Reply
  2. Renee

    I an just saying that should they implement this and I have my doubts, I hope that they will do so fairly across the board but as we all know the UN is not always the most neutral body

    Reply
  3. Ruana

    It took until 2008 for the United Nations to recognize sexual violence as a weapon of war?

    I know what you mean. I got much the same feeling when England and Wales abolished its legal exemption for spousal rape – in 1991.

    Reply
  4. brenna

    but as we all know the UN is not always the most neutral body

    It’s not really supposed to be. It’s a voting body of representatives from different countries with vastly different views.

    The question of whether they’ll actually implement anything is probably already answered for us in the light of other such pronouncements they’ve made. But that’s the cost we pay for demanding that individual sovereignty take precedence over the UN’s need for a standing army to enforce the things we all claim need to be enforced.

    Reply
  5. Macai

    I’m not really a fan of the United Nations, not only due its impotence as far as this is concerned (because its dealings with basically everything is impotent), but the fact that it claims the authority to supersede something very important to me; national sovereignty.

    I know I’m going to get a shit storm for this, but I actually hold national sovereignty pretty high. I hold it higher, even, than human rights.

    And while this is entirely tangential, I’d also like to say that I’m not a fan of this “women’s rights” crap. Fuck women’s rights. I want people’s rights. How about that for an idea, huh?

    Reply
  6. Cara Post author

    Well would you look at that? Macai just got himself banned for saying “fuck women’s rights” on a feminist blog. Who could have seen that coming?

    By the way asshole, you’re not getting a shit storm for saying that national sovereignty is more important than human rights, though that’s incredibly reprehensible and pretty telling. You get a shit storm for being a know-it-all misogynist who WARNS us pretty little ladies to not get too worked up about all of this silly “rape” stuff.

    Reply
  7. Cath

    What kind of a hateful freak values national sovereignty over human rights?

    Oh, yeah, the kind of hateful freak who says “fuck women’s rights.”

    Reply
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