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Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

UNICEF urges world to stop sexual violence against girls and women

© UNICEF/HQ04-0242/Parker
Living in the camps for displaced people in Darfur, women and girls face constant threat of rape and sexual violence. Assaults are indiscriminate - young girls and old women are equally targeted.

NEW YORK, 28 February 2005 - Ten years ago, at the World Conference on Women held in Beijing, 189 countries agreed to improve women's equality. World leaders are set to gather again - this time in New York - to review progress made to date. UNICEF plans on taking this opportunity to steer the world’s attention towards the systematic rape and sexual violence against women and girls during armed conflict.

“I think UNICEF has the mandate to raise our voice, and to bring the public to know the violence against women and girls,” says UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Rima Salah. “We need the whole world - government leaders, civil society and representatives of parliament - to sit together and to discuss ideas. We need more commitment on gender equality, particularly gender justice.”

© UNICEF/HQ04-0580/Bonn
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan hears the fears of the women of Darfur.

In Darfur - today’s most glaring humanitarian crisis - women and their daughters face the constant threat of rape and violence. Many are attacked by militias when they leave their camps to collect firewood. Assaults are indiscriminate – young girls and old women are equal targets – and there are no reports of the attackers being punished.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, hundreds of thousands of women are believed to have been raped since 1998. “Women and girls are raped every day. Their rights are seriously violated. For instance, I know this girl called Alison. She has been raped many, many times. She was also enrolled in the army, and became a sex slave,” says Ms. Salah.

© UNICEF/HQ04-0895/Noorani
A girl attends a UNICEF-supported health clinic in Darfur. UNICEF provides protection services for traumatized children and victims of sexual violence.

Across the border in Rwanda, an estimated quarter of a million women and girls have been raped during that genocide. Many became pregnant, and were cast out by their families and communities.

“It has become a tactic of war, a factor of humiliation. When an ethnic group is fighting another ethnic group, for example, rape is used to humiliate the entire community,” explains Ms. Salah.

Rape in war is surely as old as war itself. However, rape during wartime should not be inevitable. The systematic use of rape during conflict is in fact a war crime for which perpetrators must be held accountable.

During the conference, UNICEF is determined to see that steps are taken to protect women and children from these heinous crimes.




28 February 2005:
During the past two decades there has been a dramatic increase in the use of rape and sexual violence as a deliberate tactic of war.

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28 February 2005:
Statements on sexual violence against women and girls.

UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy:
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UNICEF Deputy Executive Director
Rima Salah:

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