G8: Hague plan for sexual violence prosecutions must be matched by practical support for women survivors
March 25, 2013: As William Hague and Angelina Jolie visit CARE International’s work in DRC with survivors of sexual violence in conflict, CARE warns that Hague’s proposals to increase prosecutions will fail unless survivors’ needs come first.
For the first time in the G8’s history, the issue of sexual violence against women will be discussed by the Foreign Ministers at their official meeting in London on April 11.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague will urge his opposite numbers to support an international protocol to tackle impunity for rape and other sexual assaults.
It follows the launch of Mr Hague’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) in May 2012, when he announced a new 65-strong UK team of experts, that includes police, lawyers and psychologists, set up to be deployed to affected countries.
CARE International supports the initiative and the protocol, and is pleased to be part of the PSVI steering group.
However, CARE believes that impunity will continue unless the women survivors of such crimes are properly supported with urgent medical care, psychosocial support, legal advice and the ability to get back on their feet financially.
Currently thousands of women have no such support due to a huge shortfall in basic services in the countries where it is most needed. CARE is calling for financial support from donor governments to establish more of these services for women: clinics which can discreetly assist survivors in situations of on-going conflict; and ‘one stop’ centres with multiple services such as emergency healthcare, legal advice and financial assistance, in areas where war has ended.
CARE is also urging the G8 to support home-grown projects – most effectively led by men – that encourage men and boys to change their attitudes towards women and address inequality, the root cause of sexual violence.
Geoffrey Dennis, Chief Executive of CARE International UK, said: “After a serious sexual assault, women in conflict-affected areas are not going to be able to report the offence and go on to give evidence unless they are properly supported.
“In the immediate aftermath, they will need life-saving drugs to prevent HIV infection, and other emergency healthcare, and psychosocial help to get over the trauma. Later, they will need financial advice to help them rebuild their livelihoods, and legal advice and emotional support to give a statement and testimony.
“Attempting to increase prosecutions is laudable, but without putting survivors first they will continue to fail.”
Mr Dennis added that changing men’s attitudes to women would be slow and difficult, but it was NOT insurmountable.
He said: “Sexual violence in war – and in society more generally – is not inevitable. Men can change their behaviour as evidenced in CARE’s work in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
“Although help from outside experts is welcome, fundamentally this change needs to be home-grown, conducted slowly, step by step. External players such as the G8 countries can offer long-term financial and technical assistance, and NGOs such as CARE can help facilitate this change.”
CARE International is making a number of recommendations:
The G8 international development ministries should increase funds and reallocate existing funds to address the huge shortfall in basic services needed by survivors of sexual violence.
The number of UN sexual violence experts should be substantially increased to ensure better coordination of activities on the ground during conflict, both to help survivors and support community efforts to protect themselves from such violence.
Support must be given to home-grown initiatives to combat sexual violence led by civil society, nation states and regional organisations.
Initiatives involving men and boys must be given priority as an effective way of changing behaviour and ending such violence in conflict and everyday life.
Justice and security programmes paid for by G8 countries should only be funded if they operate zero tolerance of sexual violence.
The UN should improve training for peacekeepers on how to address sexual violence and the numbers of female peacekeepers should be bolstered.
For more information, photographs or video footage, or to arrange an interview with CARE International UK Chief Executive Geoffrey Dennis or Head of Advocacy Alice Allan, please contact:
8CARE International is a leading humanitarian organisation which fights global poverty and provides lifesaving assistance in emergencies. We place special focus on working with poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to help lift families and communities out of poverty. Last year, we worked in 84 countries assisting more than 122 million people.*