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Sexual violence as ‘a tactic of terror’ rising: UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed


UNITED NATIONS: Sexual violence is increasingly being used as “a tactic of terrorism” from Iraq, Syria and Yemen in the Middle East to Somalia, Nigeria and Mali in Africa, a top UN official said on Monday.

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said “the same litany of horrors” has been recounted by Yazidi women held captive by Daesh extremists in Iraq, girls who fled from Boko Haram, Somali women liberated from the Al Shabaab extremist group, and women living under Al Qaeda-linked militants in northern Mali.

These extremist groups “are obscenely incentivizing recruitment of young men through the promise of wives and sex slaves,” she told the UN Security Council.

“They are outrageously boosting profiting through the sale, trade and trafficking of women and girls.”

Mohamed said there is a gradual shift from the past where it was “cost-free” to rape a woman, man or child in a conflict to some accountability at the international and national level “for anyone who commits, commands or condones such crimes.”

But she stressed that inequality and discrimination against women are at the root of conflict-related sexual violence and must be addressed before real change comes.

“All our words, and laws, and resolutions, will mean absolutely nothing if violations go unpunished in practice, and if we fail in our sacred duty of care to survivors,” she said.

Adama Dieng, the acting UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, said sexual violence is also “a tool of dehumanization and shame” and “a weapon of punishment and persecution.”

He pointed to “new dimensions of this scourge,” including using sexually enslaved women and girls as human shields and suicide bombers. And, he said, they are sometimes used as a kind of “currency” to compensate fighters — “as if women were ‘expendable resources’ in the machinery of terrorism.”

Dieng said the stigma that victims of sexual violence in conflict face after release can be as bad or worse than the ordeal.

He cited examples of an Iraqi girl who so feared being killed by relatives after returning from captivity by Daesh extremists that she attempted suicide by eating rat poison, and a girl raped by a Boko Haram fighters who was pregnant when released and was told by a local militia in her community that they would return to kill her “Boko Haram baby” as soon as it was born.