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Sexual Violence In Conflict | Scoop News


An Op-Ed by Vincent Ochilet, ICRC’s Head of Regional
Delegation in the Pacific

On June 19th, many
people across the globe will mark International Day
for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.
This day aims to raise awareness of the prevalence
and soaring numbers of people, mainly women, boys and girls
affected by sexual violence in conflict and the need for
greater efforts to prevent sexual violence and support
victims/survivors.

Despite clear legal prohibitions,
sexual violence remains widespread during armed conflicts
and other situations of violence, as well as in detention.
It occurs in various contexts and has grave humanitarian
consequences. Sexual violence is often utilized as a
tactical or strategic means of overwhelming and weakening
the adversary, whether directly or indirectly, by targeting
the civilian population. It also occurs opportunistically,
including where rules of restraint are ignored or
unenforced.

The International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) Regional Delegation in the Pacific works in 14
countries of the Pacific, including Papua New Guinea (PNG).
In the Highlands of PNG, tribal disagreements, if not
settled in a timely manner, can escalate and lead to armed
violence. The situation is particularly serious in the Enga,
Hela and Southern Highlands provinces, where violence often
causes injuries and death. Women, boys and girls and the
elderly are among the victims. This violence may also result
in displacement and destruction of property. Sexual violence
is widespread and takes place during tribal
fights.

Applying its multidisciplinary response to the
humanitarian consequences of tribal fighting in PNG, ICRC
provides health services, including mental health and
psychosocial support, protection and other forms of care to
prevent the occurrence of all conflict-related abuses toward
civilians, with a focus on sexual violence.

The ICRC
supports health facilities with materials for the treatment
of injured patients and technical guidance and provides
training for their staff members to further develop their
ability to provide specialized care to victims/survivors of
sexual violence. For example, we train and support
traditional community-based birth attendants and raise
awareness about sexual and reproductive health services
among community members. To ensure mental-health and
psychosocial support is available to victims/survivors of
sexual violence, the ICRC trains health centre staff and
Family Support Centres in hospitals to conduct structured
and sensitive consultations. We also strengthen existing
referral mechanisms and cover costs where needed, to help
survivors receive appropriate care.

Furthermore, the
ICRC interacts closely with violence-affected people in PNG
to better understand their protection-related needs and to
help them mitigate risks to their safety. By raising the
humanitarian impacts of tribal fighting among the parties
concerned, we urge them to abide by basic principles of
humanity. Notably, this includes ensuring the protection of
civilians from sexual violence and other forms of
abuse.

In addition, the ICRC promotes the respect of
relevant domestic and international law enforcement
standards among military and police forces and provides
guidance on integrating these norms into their training and
operations.

Lastly, the ICRC engages the authorities
including government forces in dialogue on measures they can
take to ensure that civilians and their property are
protected from harm during law enforcement operations. Where
appropriate, we raise specific concerns based on documented
allegations of unlawful conduct. We provide training and
dissemination sessions for security forces personnel on
international policing standards, particularly on the use of
force. The ICRC engages with community members involved in
tribal fights offering workshops on restraint and other
means, to raise awareness of humanitarian principles and to
discuss issues of concern such as the importance of
preventing sexual violence. We engage closely with community
members and their leaders to encourage the adoption of
coping mechanisms and preventive measures to help reduce
their risk of exposure to tribal violence, including sexual
violence.

This year’s International Day for the
Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict is an opportunity
for us to highlight the importance of taking concrete
measures to prevent sexual violence as a weapon or
consequence of conflict. Where it continues to occur, we aim
to provide adequate support to the victims/survivors, such
as the provision of appropriate medical care and other
supports as needed, including mental health/psycho-social
support.

Sexual violence during conflict cannot and
should not be accepted. We must work together to prevent it
and ensure victims/survivors receive appropriate care and
treatment should it occur. Action against sexual violence
must be taken
now!

© Scoop Media

 



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