I want the world to know that the children of Congo are just like any other children - they have the right to life, education, health and happiness. They deserve to live in love and joy.
Lauren Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and Director of Women Under Siege, an independent initiative documenting how rape and other forms of sexual violence have been used as tools in genocide and conflict throughout the 20th century and into the 21st. In this special feature for the Foreign Office, she writes about the urgency of tracking sexualized violence in Syria.
She jumped off a balcony to kill herself. At least that’s what we think happened - that the teenage girl decided to end her life after being raped in a Syrian government detention center. This is what a Finnish reporter told me. A family who’d fled Syria had relayed the story to the journalist in August. The girl was their neighbor. And she was just one of potentially thousands of girls and women who may have been sexually brutalized in this war.
What is so difficult about documenting sexualized violence in conflict, as the Women’s Media Center’s Women Under Siege project is doing with a live, crowd-sourced map on Syria, is that there’s rarely “proof” of rape. It’s not like we can see physical marks on a woman’s body for the most part; the mark is often on her psyche, which suffers when she is forced to hide what is societally thought to be her “shame.” Syria in particular has proven acutely problematic in terms of the stigma of rape: We have reports of women killing themselves, being forced to divorce, and being murdered because they have been sexually violated.
Rape is tearing Syrians apart. The concept of purity is destroying their lives on top of it.
So is doubt. We may not be able to verify sexual crimes against women - and men - being perpetrated right now in a live war in Syria, but we can collect the stories for future corroboration. The idea is to gather them before they are lost in the rubble. More than 20 percent of the women in our reports are found dead or are killed after rape.
We are losing evidence along with lives. There is no time to wait.
Women Human Rights Defenders are more at risk of suffering certain forms of violence and other violations, prejudice, exclusion, and repudiation than their male counterparts
British Ambassador to Ethiopia Greg Dorey talks about the activity the Embassy is undertaking to raise awareness of its“stop gender based violence campaign”. This will include public media work, using social media, meeting Ethiopian activists on women’s issues and screening our successful “Hopes of Ethiopia” Olympic films (which features Ethiopia’s first ever female Olympic swimmer, Yanet Seyoum) and the Girl Hub’s award winning “Heroes” film.
In the Daily Beast, British Ambassador to the USA Peter Westmacott and United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer highlight one of the most disturbing horrors of the conflict in Syria: the use of sexual assault as a weapon.
Both the nature and extent of this type of violence is, to put it mildly, horrific. South African women and girls suffer one of the highest levels of gender-based violence in the world.
Improving rule of law and access to justice is key to giving women the voice they need
Violence against women and girls is a global problem that affects every country. Around the world one in three women and girls has been beaten or sexually abused in her lifetime, a truly shocking statistic.
Tackling such violence needs to be high on the international agenda and a priority for individual countries. That’s why the UK government has taken a range of action aimed at preventing violence and providing more support for victims as part of a comprehensive strategy ‘A Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls’.
We have strengthened the law to protect victims of domestic violence and are consulting on further changes. We are working to increase convictions for rape by ensuring every report of rape is treated seriously, every victim is treated with dignity and every investigation and prosecution conducted thoroughly and professionally. We are protecting and supporting those facing forced marriage and will be consulting on whether to make forced marriage a criminal offence. And we are tackling negative attitudes to girls and women to prevent violence from occurring in the first place.
I will continue to use my role as the UK’s international ministerial champion to raise the voices of women and girls, at home and abroad. We all need to speak out against violence against women, not just today but every day of the year.
It is important Egypt enters the coming elections in an atmosphere of calm and mutual respect. The clashes between police and protesters in Tahrir Square and across Egypt are deeply concerning and the loss of life and injuries deeply regrettable.
I condemn the violence, and call on all sides to find a peaceful way forward, committing themselves to dialogue and the completion of a transfer to democratic civilian rule on the basis of a credible timetable.