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Last Updated: 12/08/2004
Stop Violence against women and girls
The Peace and Conflict Monitor draws attention to the Amnesty International report on Women and War: Stop Violence Against Women, issued today 8 December 2004
Women and girls tell their stories: http://news.amnesty.org/index/ENGACT770952004
Women and girls bear the brunt of armed conflicts fought today both as direct
targets and as unrecognized "collateral damage". Lives Blown Apart - a new report in Amnesty
International's campaign, Stop Violence Against Women, calls for global action
to challenge both the violence and the failure of governments to prevent
"Patterns of violence against women in conflict do not arise
'naturally' but are ordered, condoned or tolerated. They persist because those
who commit them know they can get away with impunity," said Irene Khan,
Secretary General of Amnesty International.
The report lays out the
global picture revealing a systematic pattern of abuse repeating itself in
conflicts all over the world from Colombia, Iraq, Sudan, Chechnya, Nepal to
Afghanistan and in 30 other ongoing conflicts. Despite promises, treaties and
legal mechanisms, governments have failed to protect women and girls from
"Women and girls are not just killed, they are raped, sexually
attacked, mutilated and humiliated. Custom, culture and religion have built an
image of women as bearing the 'honour' of their communities. Disparaging a
woman's sexuality and destroying her physical integrity have become a means by
which to terrorize, demean and 'defeat' entire communities, as well as to
punish, intimidate and humiliate women," said Irene Khan.
On top of this
it is women and children who are forced to flee their homes. It is women who
care for the sick and injured and it is women who have to collect food and water
- tasks and situations that put them at further risk of abuse.
survivors suffer not only from psychological and emotional trauma, from the
impact on their health and the risk of HIV/Aids, but also from the fear that
they will be ostracized by their families and communities if they are publicly
identified as a rape victim.
"In the community, they made such fun of
me that I had to leave the village and live in the forest.[..] I am hungry, I
have no clothes and no soap. I don t have any money to pay for medical care. It
would be better if I died with the baby in my womb," Sanguina was raped
twice during the DRC conflict.
Justice is key to stopping the violence
and when the International Criminal Court begins its first prosecutions, it will
open a new avenue for women to access justice. Justice is not just a technical
tool but has a concrete impact. It confirms that rape and sexual violence are
crimes, restores dignity and feelings of self worth and it delivers redress.
Justice is also a vital step to prevent the crimes from happening again, it
sends a signal to those who would commit violence that it will not be
"It is absolutely pivotal that one of the first prosecutions
by the ICC next year includes crimes of violence against women. A strong global
message must be sent that violence against women will be vigorously pursued.
Firm action by the ICC will help shame states into promoting action through
their national courts," said Irene Khan.
However the ICC cannot deliver
justice without political support. The success of an ICC prosecution will also
depend on the cooperation it receives from governments on practical issues,
including the assistance it receives during investigations, the sharing of
evidence and the protection of witnesses who may be at risk.
lives and their bodies have been the unacknowledged casualties of war for too
long. Tools to tackle the violence exist, but justice for women victims of war
will only be delivered if world leaders are ready to do more than just make
pious statements condemning rape and sexual violence.They must adopt an agenda
for action, centred on the ICC and complemented by universal jurisdiction
through national systems," said Irene Khan.
The report highlights how the
fight for women's security and human rights is jeopardised by increasing
militarization and the introduction of new security agendas to fight global
terrorism. US led security doctrines have stretched the concept of "war" into
areas formerly considered as law enforcement promoting the notion that human
rights can be curtailed in the name of security.
Despite the impact of
conflict on women and girls they are still excluded from the peace negotiation
tables. Often it is the men who initiated the war who take decisions on how
peace should be built and introduced.
"Women have a crucial role to play
in re-building secure communities and countries. All over the world women are
challenging violence, discrimination and silence. Without women's active
involvement in any peace process there can be no security, no justice and no
peace," said Irene Khan.
Amnesty International is presenting an agenda
for action at global, regional, national and local level:
- The ICC must be allowed to act effectively and deliver justice to women
and girls. If the Security Council is serious about ending violence against
women in conflict it can refer cases to the ICC, when governments fail to do
- Governments must give their political support to enable the ICC to work
effectively. This includes ratifying the Rome Statute of the ICC, implementing
the Rome Statute into national law so that perpetrators can be prosecuted for
these crimes in national systems, sharing information with the ICC, and
providing protection for victims and witnesses.
- Governments must publicly condemn violence against women and girls in any
circumstances, issuing clear warnings or instructions to their forces that
violence against women will not be tolerated.
- The international community: all governments, the UN and relevant
international bodies must ensure that women play a key role in the design and
implementation of all peace-building initiatives.
- All parties and the UN must provide immediate and effective assistance to
survivors of violence against women, including emergency health care programs
"We have to mobilize global outrage - to challenge the violence, support
those women who suffer and put pressure on those who can bring about change. It
is the power of individual women and men that drives change," said Irene
Violence against women is the greatest human rights scandal of
|I really don t know what it was that evening
that made me decide to call the police, but I always say it was the
sight of cleaning up my own blood. Lorraine, a British woman,
was regularly beaten by her partner for eight years before telling
anybody. People have asked me why I didn t just leave, but . I
was very, very frightened of him. So you get to the point where you
live with it, it becomes a normal pattern of life, you adapt, you
cope, you hide it. In the UK, emergency services receive an
average of one call per minute about violence in the
From birth to death, in times of peace as well as war, women face
discrimination and violence at the hands of the state, the community and the
- At least one out of every three women has been beaten,
coerced into sex, or abused in her lifetime. This figure comes from a
study based on 50 surveys from around the world.
- More than 60 million women are missing from the world
today as a result of sex-selective abortions and female infanticide.
- Every year, millions of women are raped by partners,
relatives, friends and strangers, by employers and colleagues, soldiers and
members of armed groups.
- Violence in the family is endemic all
over the world; the overwhelming majority of victims are women and girls. In
the USA, for example, women account for around 85 per cent of the victims of
- The World Health Organization has reported that up to 70 per
cent of female murder victims are killed by their male partners.
- Small arms and light weapons are the main tools of almost every
conflict. Women and children account for nearly 80% of the casualties,
according to the UN Secretary-General.