UN: Sexual violence integral tactic of terror
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Just as the international community has made some inroads combating sexual violence as a weapon of war, extremists are adopting the age-old tactic as a tool of terror.
Speaking Thursday at a Security Council session on sexual violence in conflict, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pointed to the recent conviction of Democratic Republic of Congo politician Pierre Bemba Gombo by the International Criminal Court as the “latest sign that the era of impunity for sexual violence as a tool of war is over.”
But he acknowledged much more remained to be done.
“One extremely disturbing aspect is the use of sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism. Daesh, Boko Haram and other extremist groups are using sexual violence as a means of attracting and retaining fighters, and to generate revenue,” he said, using another name for the Islamic State group.
Ban’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura told the council that of the 48 parties accused of employing sexual violence in a new U.N. report, 37 were non-state actors, requiring new tools and strategies that go beyond resolutions, treaties and sanctions traditionally used to address the scourge.
“The war of conquest of extremist groups is being fought on and fought over the bodies of women and girls generating millions of dollars of revenue,” Bangura said. “It is the revival of the slave trades in our own time and life.”
Ban’s report to the Security Council estimated that the Yazidi people in Iraq paid some $45 million in ransom to the Islamic State group in 2014 alone for the return of their girls and women.
Bangura said social media was another factor facilitating the trade and trafficking of women, who are offered in on-line forums alongside “rifles and rocket propelled grenades.”
“When we think terrorism we think of destruction of property, killing, bombing or hostage taking. But we cannot deplore the public violence of terrorism while ignoring the violence terrorists inflict on women and girls behind closed doors,” she said, adding that, worse yet, when victims are lucky enough to be freed from captivity they are often shunned by their communities.
“Sexual violence is still the only crime that stigmatizes the victim rather than the perpetrator,” Bangura said.
She said efforts to battle sexual violence carried out by non-state actors should focus on draining extremists’ resources and degrading their capacity to communicate, travel and do harm, as well as providing better care to victims.
In his address, Ban also touched on a spate of recent cases where U.N. peacekeepers have been accused of sexual abuse, saying that the organization “will continue our own efforts to ensure that peacekeepers uphold the highest standards of integrity towards the people they serve.”