Violence against women is a global pandemic – one that threatens to destroy communities, destabilise nations and legitimises the most inhumane brutality. The figures behind these horrors are staggering –
- 35% of women have experienced physical and sexual violence.
- 140 million women have suffered genital mutilation.
- Women represent 55% of all forced labour worldwide. This over representation is because women are 98% of those pushed into forced sexual exploitation.
- Over 250,000 women were raped in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide
- 64 million women and girls are child brides. Pregnancy-related complicationsare often the leading cause of death among 15-19 year olds in countries where this practice is common.
- 40% of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo have experienced rape.
The UK is hosting the global summit this week on ending sexual violence (ESV) against women at the Excel Centre in London. Anyone can come to the fringe meetings and find out how they can take action in their own communities.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has shown leadership in working with the groups to make this summit – the first of its kind in history – possible. Now policy must do more than reflect goodwill – we need to talk about peacebuilding and the need for ESV to become a core component of building stability in fragile states.
Violence against women is one of the most widespread of human rights abuses. Survivors often suffer further victimisation by family and society. The anger and humiliation of communities affected by sexual violence creates a perfect breeding ground for the next draft of soldiers.
This kind of hatred can echo down the generations. More must be done to ensure it never happens.
The United Nations General Secretary Campaign, Unite to end sexual violence has outlined the approaches that must be taken to ESV in our time. It is broken down into four areas –
- Prevention – Education and programmes to facilitate culture change.
- Services – dealing with the emotional and psychological impact of sexual violence.
- Justice and Impunity –Bringing perpetrators of sexual violence to justice.
- Monitor and reporting – Identifying and protecting at-risk groups.
The UK must begin prioritising which areas they wish to focus on. Conflict prevention initiatives are largely funded by the UK Conflict Pool. It is impressive that the UK already has a policy mechanism for funding international peacebuilding efforts but more must be done to ensure the value, effectiveness and strategic direction of the Conflict Pool in aiding ESV.
Peacebuilding has already proved its economic, political and ethical worth – so much so that the government is tripling the resources dedicated to it over the next three years. Investing towards ending sexual violence against women is something that could have massive impact on the UK’s government conflict prevention strategy.
The last annual report on the government Conflict Pool was commissioned in 2009/2010. All government policies must be reviewed to ensure their effectiveness – how can the government know if ESV projects are working if they aren’t placed under proper scrutiny?
Something must be wrong if the government doesn’t want to talk about it.
Recommendations laid out by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact for improving the Conflict Pool have never been reported back on. This means that there are serious concerns what the Conflict Pool is funding including issues about non-military funds being partly managed by the Ministry of Defence and the lack of a long term overall plan for the Conflict Pool. These have never been addressed publicly.
The Ending Sexual Violence Against Women Global Summit is an opportunity for the government to use the international momentum to apply a solid policy answers for this global problem. ESV should become a core part of the UK’s conflict prevention strategy going forward and this agenda should be tied to the UK Conflict Pool.
A commitment to greater transparency would ensure these funds are directed to the projects with the greatest impact. ESV would help give the Conflict Pool the strategic direction it needs and end criticism that the Conflict Pool is being unfairly militarised by the Ministry of Defence.
A commitment to ending sexual violence worldwide speaks to the hope of building a better world that seeks to end the causes of conflict. What we need now from the government is not warm words but bold action.
3 days of free public events are taking place in the Summit Fringe at ExCel London from the 10-12 June.