Women envoys back bid to end rape in war

Women diplomats should speak out against sexual violence being used as a weapon of war, London’s female ambassadors have urged ahead of the World Summit this week.

“Violence against women and children is universal and a major issue in some countries. And yes, women diplomats should speak about it,” the High Commissioner for Papua New Guinea told Embassy

Dutch Ambassador Laetitia van den Assum remarked that while in theory women ambassadors had the same role as their male colleagues in raising awareness, women ambassadors were “more sensitive to the issues” because 85 to 90 percent of the victims were female.

“That, however, does not excuse male ambassadors from not raising the red flag,” she told Embassy.

The Ambassador added that one of the issues not sufficiently highlighted was the crime of sexual violence against male victims, which was increasing in prevalence. “They cases are in the minority but they are not getting sufficient attention. Sexual abuse of males is increasingly used as a weapon of war. It is, among others, an extreme form of humiliation of the enemy.”

In the Fringe Event, two female-headed missions, the Dutch and Swedish Embassies in London, will be joining forces with the Foreign Office, social media portal MakeSense and women’s NGO Chayn for a #EndSVCHack Diplohack.

The DiploHack will bring together diplomats, coders, NGOs, designers and survivors for a brainstorming session to come up with creative and practical technical solutions to combat sexual violence in conflict.

Heads of mission outlined the main hurdles to overcome, which include cultural barriers and the stigmatisation of the victims which act to deter them from coming forward to report crimes; unreformed security forces; and lack of coordination on the ground by humanitarian and medical workers. These factors added to the “sense of impunity” of the perpetrators.

While diplomats are not predicting any major new measures to come out of the summit, it is hoped it will build an “irreversible momentum” against the use of rape as a weapon of war. It is also hoped that the summit and fringe events will provide practical solutions to critical issues such as improving documentation and investigation of sexual violence in conflict; providing greater support and assistance for survivors, including child survivors; ensuring sexual and gender based violence responses and the promotion of gender equality are fully integrated in all peace and security efforts; and improving international co-ordination.

Co-chaired by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy for the UNHCR, it will be attended by delegations representing more than 100 countries and the largest gathering ever brought together on this subject.