World Marks International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict

Rachel, a refugee from South Sudan was gang raped by government soldiers before fleeing to Uganda. Since arriving in the refugee settlement, she gave birth to a child she conceived as a result of the rape.

They told me, “We will do bad things to you whether you are woman, or if we find your husband, we will sleep with him in front of you, you will see!” Angela from Kiryandongo refugee settlement, northern Uganda in September 2017 remembered.

According to Amnesty International, the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, signifies solidarity with survivors of conflict-related sexual violence around the world and recognizes those fighting to end impunity for such violence.

FIDA Uganda notes that the effects of conflict-related sexual violence echo across generations, through trauma, stigma, poverty, poor health and unwanted pregnancy.

It is not just women and girls who are subjected to sexual violence. Evidence of sexual violence against men and boys including rape, castration and torture, with men rendered especially vulnerable when in custody and detention.

The UN announced this year’s theme as “The Plight and Rights of Children Born of War”. In legal terms, a child born as a result of rape is not the victim of a crime, and yet they often face extreme challenges, and even persecution.

Historically, sexual and gender-based violence was considered an inevitable by-product of war — not a crime to be prosecuted however after World War II, the charters of the International Military Tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo, which were established to prosecute wartime atrocities, did not explicitly recognize sexual and gender-based crimes.

Today, sexual and gender-based crimes are considered especially grave violations of international law.

They can be categorized as war crimes, crimes against humanity, or acts of genocide depending on how the crimes are committed and in what context. The same crime can also fall into multiple categories.

In a tweet by Rosa Malango the United Nations High commissioner to Uganda to commemorate this day, she noted “Preventing sexual violence is about respect for life, safety and the right to dignity.” She further added that it is a shared responsibility to protect women and girls.

“Children conceived through wartime time rape often struggle with issues of identity and belonging for decades after the guns have fallen silent.”-Antonio Guterres the UN Secretary General.

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