Secretary General Releases Report on Sexual Violence in Conflict Areas
Tuesday, August 4, 2009 1:29 PM

In 2008, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1820, which condemned the use of sexual violence against civilians in conflict areas.  Pursuant to Resolution 1820, on July 15, 2009, the Secretary-General of the United Nations published a report detailing situations involving the systematic use of sexual violence against civilians in conflict areas, as well as recommendations to halt such atrocities.  The Secretary-General’s report includes analyses of numerous countries, including the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan.

Overall, the report indicates that sexual violence in conflict areas is a pervasive problem in many parts of the world.  Such violence frequently includes the abduction, forced prostitution, and enslavement of victims, and perpetrators of this type of violence are both state and non-state actors.  The victims of sexual violence in conflict areas are often chosen based upon ethnicity, religion, or other discriminatory grounds.  Finally, the motive of the perpetrators is frequently to terrorize civilians.

The report's recommendations include:

  1. The prevention of sexual violence and protection of civilians.  The report recommends that civilian and military leaders publicly denounce sexual violence against civilians, and, importantly, carry out stated punishments for these crimes.  The report also suggests that countries address de facto inequalities between men and women, as sexual violence against civilians increases as inequality between the genders widens.
  2. Combating impunity for sexual violence.  The report recommends that countries should strengthen laws against sexual violence and the administration of justice in this area, as accused perpetrators are frequently able to avoid punishment.  The report also indicates that in areas where sexual violence is tried under military justice, military tribunals largely fail to adequately address the issue.  Finally, the Secretary-General recommends that crimes involving sexual violence in conflict areas should not be mediated in traditional community dispute resolution programs.
  3. Providing assistance to victims.  The report recommends that many countries improve psychological and economic assistance for victims, which are required for a victim's effective reintegration into society.
  4. Expanding the United Nations’ efforts to prevent sexual violence in conflict areas.  According to the report, the United Nations should send a larger percentage of female peacekeepers to conflict areas, as they are more effective at deterring sexual violence than their male counterparts.  Additionally, to lead by example, the United Nations must rigorously enforce its zero tolerance policy on sexual violence and abuse by UN personnel.

Compiled from:  "Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to Security Council resolution 1820," United Nations Security Council (July 15, 2009); "Resolution 1820," United Nations Security Council (June 19, 2008); "UN Security Council Resolution 1820," U.S. Department of State (July 2, 2008).