Mushikiwabo condemns sexual crimes in conflict zones

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, has condemned sexual crimes in conflict and called for effective and coordinated mechanisms to address it.
FIGHTING GBV: Louise Mushikiwabo.
FIGHTING GBV: Louise Mushikiwabo.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, has condemned sexual crimes in conflict and called for effective and coordinated mechanisms to address it.

She was, on Wednesday, speaking at a UN Security Council debate on sexual violence in conflict at UN headquarters in New York.

Mushikiwabo, who chaired the meeting, briefed the participants on how rape and sexual assault were key tools used to humiliate and dehumanise people during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

“Systematic sexual victimisation of women and girls in conflict settings is an unacceptable,” Mushikiwabo said. “Let us speak in a clear and unmistakable voice. Sexual violence will not be tolerated, and justice must be served.”

She commended the UN Secretary General’s office for the renewed efforts to fight for the protection of women and engaging leaders and other stakeholders on preventing sexual violence in war-torn areas.

The meeting was part of Rwanda’s priority areas to be looked into, during the country’s April presidency of the UNSC.

“A society that fails to protect its citizens from sexual violence is a broken society. It’s proliferation is a sure sign of State failure. Any society hoping to move beyond crisis and conflict should take into account prevention of sexual violence,” Mushikiwabo said.

She added: Rwanda’s experience tells us that healing and reconciliation are only possible when women claim their rightful place at the heart of our communities.”

The minister said the use of sexual violence as a weapon of genocide and war was exported from Rwanda to the DR Congo when genocidal forces fled to eastern DRC in 1994.

“Tragically, this behaviour has become commonplace among armed groups in the region; we must not accept it as a fact of life,” she said.

Mushikiwabo said eradicating sexual violence in conflict will not be possible as long as perpetrators are able to escape accountability.

Rwanda has adopted a range of policies to prevent and respond to violence against women by setting up “One Stop Centres,” which offer a wide range of services for the victims of Gender-Based Violence.

In response to the UN’s Unite to End Violence against Women and Girls campaign initiated in 2010, Rwanda hosted a high-level global conference on the “role of security organs in ending violence against women and girls”. The conference endorsed a declaration and subsequently formed a secretariat to monitor its implementation. 

As the April President of UNSC, Rwanda called on all parties in armed conflict to enforce a clear prohibition of sexual violence.

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