More attention needed to prevent sexual violence in conflicts

"In conflict and emergency situations, more attention must be paid to gender and the prevention of sexual violence", Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo said on the second International Day for Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. The fight against sexual violence is a priority of the Belgian Development Cooperation.
Alexander De Croo: "Rape, sexual slavery and genital mutilation are horrible weapons of war. They deprive people of their dignity, leave deep scars, and tear communities. The use of sexual violence in conflicts is not only an unmistakable violation of human rights, it is also an important obstacle to reconciliation. We also see more and more extremist groups like Daesh and Boko Haram using sexual violence to attract and retain fighters and to generate income.

Strong impression

"Two years ago, I spoke to women in East Congo who were brutally raped. Their stories were horrendous. My discussions with Dr. Denis Mukwege, who deals with victims of sexual violence at the Panzi hospital in Bukavu, made a strong impression on me and convinced me to give the fight against sexual violence an important place in the international development policy of Belgium", said Alexander De Croo.
Reducing sexual violence in conflicts is one of the issues in the Strategy Paper and the Action Plan on Gender in Belgian Development Cooperation. Within the framework of She Decides, Belgium supports the International Planned Parenthood Federation ( IPPF), which operates, among other countries, in Syria, and offers protection and assistance to victims of sexual violence. Our country also finances the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Mali, where the ICRC is committed to prevention as well as to medical and psychosocial support for victims of sexual violence. In addition, Belgium supports the UNICEF Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on grave violations against children, a reporting system to keep track of the violations of child rights in armed conflicts, including sexual violence against children.

Sexual violence in South Sudan

Also during his humanitarian work visit to South Sudan this week, Alexander De Croo will have an eye upon the fight against sexual violence. South Sudan has been in the middle of a devastating civil war since December 2013. Unlike Syria, South Sudan's violence is getting much less international attention. No one knows exactly how many have lost their lives. Nor is it known how many women and children became victims of sexual violence.
Alexander De Croo: "It is without any doubts that it's about thousands of victims. Not only individual soldiers are guilty. It is a large-scale and planned violence that is also practiced by government soldiers and rebels. Recently, we also received disturbing reports about genital mutilation of boys so that they can no longer produce offspring. I will give the South Sudanese government a clear message that an urgent end to this sexual violence is needed and that the perpetrators must be held accountable."