Friday, April 06, 2007

Issues In The News

Time To Take A Stand
By Parisa Esmaili

For the first time, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has recognized rape, as an act of genocide and crime against humanity. On March 5, 2007, the UN held a panel discussion regarding the elimination of all forms of violence and discrimination against women.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recently launched their new campaign in ending sexual violence against women and young girls, especially in time of conflict.
Rape has been coined the silent war crime and the number of incidences are rising. “Unfortunately, much of the data goes undocumented because of the shame and loss of human dignity when they [women] have to report it,” says Sapana Pradhan Malla, President and Executive Director of Forum for Women, Law, and Development in Nepal.

Ms. Malla, was joined by International Criminal Court (ICC) Deputy Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda; General Daniel Opande, former UN Force Commander of Liberia and Sierra Leone; and Eve Ensler, Founder and Artistic Director of V-Day, and author of the award-winning Vagina Monologues. Isha Sesay, the United Kingdom’s CNN News Anchor, moderated the panel discussion.

Sexual violence against women and young girls has escalated for years in silence. Rape and sexual violence has become a weapon of choice in times of war. Women, in a man’s world of war, are seen as no different than an AK-47 -- smooth along the edges, long, shiny, cold, and powerful in its repercussions.

“Over the past year, the ICC has worked tremendously against sexual violence. Rape, forced prostitution, trafficking, forced enslavement, and forced pregnancies, among many other indignities are now recognized as war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Ms. Bensouda said.

The panelist agree that the UN should work directly or indirectly to prosecute those who blight gender rights; create a fair male and female status; provide victims and witnesses measures of protection with legal equity; provide extensive conflict and rape management counseling to staff, and deploy them. The panel also sees the need for better training and education of military personnel on these issues; and most importantly, protecting children by holding those who perpetrate abuses accountable.

“Peace will only be insured when every woman and every child feels protected by the law and by their people,” said Gen. Opande. “We cannot compromise human dignity to protect the war, its negotiation, or its peacekeepers.”

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