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Human Rights Council focuses on conflict-related violence against women

GENEVA, June 12 (KUNA) -- The Human Rights Council concluded its annual discussion on women's human rights on Sunday with a panel discussion focusing on conflict-related violence against women.
Kyun-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights said "conflict situations exacerbated pre-existing patterns of gender discrimination and put women and girls at heightened risk of sexual, physical and psychological violence".
"The end of conflict did not translate into an end to the violence that women and girls endured. Women continued to suffer from the medical, physical, psychological and socio-economic consequences long after the conflict had ended," she added.
Violence against women before, after, and during conflict had often been treated as an inevitable scourge of war within the context of overall concerns related to the protection of civilian populations, without specific consideration of the gender specific nature of the violation, its causes and consequences.
Over the last few years, the international community had witnessed increased awareness of conflict related violence against women.
Fedor Roschocha, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council, said this panel would provide an opportunity to discuss the situation of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations and to identify ways and means of how the Human Rights Council could strengthen its response to conflict-related violence against women.
Margot Wallstrom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict, said efforts to uphold human rights and enhance social justice were also efforts to prevent violence and conflict. Prevention was paramount. Women's rights did not end when conflict began.
In contemporary conflicts, women and girls were the primary targets of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war. Sexual violence thrived on silence and impunity.
The challenge was to prevent the cycle of violence and vengeance, as well as discrimination and disempowerment that gave rise to rape as a tactic of war.
Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, said the mandate had addressed violence against women as operating on a continuum in terms of location and time and had looked at all spheres of human interaction, from the family, the immediate community and the larger society, to the State and the international arena.
It had addressed violence against women in times of peace, in conflict, post-conflict, transitions, consolidation and development. Evidence from around the world seemed to suggest that armed conflict in a region and the militarization process, including the ready availability of small weapons and demobilisation of frustrated soldiers, led to an increased tolerance of violence which might also result in increased violence against women and girls.
Zohra Rasekh, Vice President of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said that the Committee had been vigilant about women's human rights during armed conflict and post-conflict situations through its regular examination of the reports of the States parties, and through concluding observations and recommendations.
As one of its mandates, the Committee had asked States parties to produce exceptional reports on women's rights during times of crisis, conflict and post-conflict. The Committee consistently called for the equal and meaningful participation of women in all processes related to post-conflict reconstruction, peace-building and peace negotiations.
Marek Marczynski, Research, Policy and Campaign Manager, Amnesty International, said while resolution 1325 of the Security Council was a symbolic step in the struggle for women's rights, 10 years after its adoption the international community needed to consider what impact it had had on women in post conflict countries.
Amnesty International heard from many women the same story that the perpetrators of sexual and other forms of gender based violence against them were still in power. In certain cases 15 years after the war the perpetrators were in charge of deciding the social benefits the survivors would receive.
In the discussion, speakers said millions of women around the world were far from enjoying the rights they were guaranteed by the various conventions, as violence against women was among the most widespread forms of discrimination. The instrumentalisation of women in the media, female genital mutilation and the spread of HIV/AIDS as a weapon of war were but some examples illustrating the painful reality in which women were forced to live.
All countries, as well as civil society and other relevant stakeholders, must be mobilised to appropriately combat this issue and tackle its root causes. In particular, there was no doubt that sexual violence in conflict situations was a serious breach of women's rights.
A case in point was the ongoing situation in Libya, where allegations of sexual violence by Government forces must be taken seriously. Countries highlighted the efforts they had made, and continued to make, to fight domestic violence, empower women and girls, tackle human trafficking, raise awareness and make legislative amendments.
Speakers wondered what initiatives UN WOMEN envisaged at the global and regional levels to promote the fight against gender-based stereotypes? What mechanism was most efficient in the panelists' view to continually bring this issue to international attention. (end) ta.hb KUNA 121502 Jun 11NNNN