UN agencies urged to end sexual violence in humanitarian crisis

By Fauxile Kibet

UN agencies, politicians, government representatives and civil society organizations have been urged to take definitive action towards ending extreme violence against women, girls and boys in crisis affected areas.

Jan Egeland, the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) who issued a statement ahead of the international conference on sexual violence to be held in Oslo, Norway on 23rd and 24th May said that physical violence, trafficking, rape and all other forms of violence should never be seen as an inevitable consequence of a crisis.

“If we cannot all do better, we cannot call ourselves real humanitarians, as we offer aid with one hand and allow horrendous violence to take place with the other,” he said.

He added, “Sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence against women and children are horrific symptoms of conflict that should never be accepted or normalised whenever a humanitarian crisis strikes a community.

The Secretary General observed that in too many conflicts, sexual violence was being used as a weapon and victims of such crimes continue to suffer in silence – without an avenue to call for help.

“We can no longer sit back while mothers around the world are forced to endure violence, are left to tolerate the vile abuse of their children and are forced to live among the men doing them harm,” he said.

He also called for responsible authorities to not only ensure vulnerable women and communities are shielded from such brutality but also those who commit these heinous crimes are held accountable.

Humanitarian crises trigger and exacerbate sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) including rape, sexual slavery, trafficking, forced and early marriage, and intimate partner violence.

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by these violations of international law, with severe consequences. But men and boys are affected too. While the humanitarian response to SGBV has improved in recent years, much work remains to be done with affected people at the centre of the response.