Leading UK women unite in call to end sexual violence against children in conflict

Ahead of International Women’s Day, Author J.K. Rowling, International Fashion Designer Victoria Beckham, Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts, Human Rights Barrister Amal Alamuddin and UNICEF UK Ambassador Jemima Khan are among signatories of an open letter calling for action from the UK Government to protect women and children from sexual violence in conflict.

Read their letter below, and join their call by adding your name.

In war zones sexual violence is as devastating as bullets and bombs. According to UNICEF, those most at risk are women and their children, both girls and boys.

One of the starkest reminders is Syria, where an entire generation is at risk of being lost as a fourth year of conflict and unimaginable atrocities approaches.

Between February and May last year nearly three quarters of the Syrian refugees newly arrived in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq who spoke to child protection researchers said that sexual violence is on the rise inside their country.

Ahead of International Women’s Day this coming Saturday, March 8, we stand together to call for change. In June the UK hosts a crucial global summit on sexual violence in conflict. International leaders must seize this opportunity to defend women and to commit to protect children in war zones from rape and sexual abuse.

UK ministers must do their utmost to ensure the summit prioritises measures to help children to report sexual crimes and hold their abusers to account. The UK must also secure more funding for psychological and long-term support for child survivors.

Sexual violence in conflict is preventable, not inevitable. Together we can end this.

Signed,

Jemima Khan; Baroness Lane Fox of Soho CBE; J.K. Rowling OBE; Victoria Beckham; Justine Roberts, Mumsnet; Amal Alamuddin, barrister; Professor Geraldine Van Bueren QC; Anita Tiessen, UNICEF UK; Baroness Stern CBE; Megha Mittal; Rosie Huntington-Whiteley; Sophie Dahl; Lady Edwina Grosvenor; Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin; Claudia Schiffer; Cat Deeley; Sigrid Rausing; Keeley Hawes; Cathy Turner; Ilse Howling; Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE; Denise Lewis OBE; Heather Kerzner; Kirsty Young; Carolyn McCall OBE

Add your name below, or read more about our campaign to end sexual violence against children in conflict

Comments

  • Samuel Manyok

    A great initiative. I just wish our dying women of South Sudan could celebrate their day without weird memories and reflection about sexual violence they are currently witnessing in a very senseless war.

  • hughsheehy

    While sexual violence in war zones may indeed be devastating, can we please admit that the introductory statement is just not true.

    “In war zones sexual violence is as devastating as bullets and bombs.”

    Getting blown into little pieces by artillery or shot in the face by a high velocity round happens to too many people in war zones. Stopping THAT happening is the priority and we should not distract from that. Giving an impression that war would somehow be significantly more tolerable if sexual abuse could be eliminated ignores the most horrendous realities of war.

    Pick any one of a number of articles about the Syria conflict where dozens of children got killed by artillery.

    • http://blogs.unicef.org.uk/ UNICEF UK

      Thanks for your comment Hugh. While it is impossible to say exactly how many children suffer from sexual violence in war zones, as compared to those who are injured or killed by bombs or bullets, we know it is has devastating long term consequences.

      Sexual violence is horrifyingly common in conflicts. Right now in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, about 1,100 rapes are reported every month, with an average of 36 women and girls raped every single day. It’s believed that over 200,000 women have suffered from sexual violence in the DRC since armed conflict began. In some incidents in Rwanda during the civil war from 1990-94, virtually every adolescent girl who survived an attack by the militia was subsequently raped. Many of those who became pregnant were ostracized by their families and communities. Some abandoned their babies; others committed suicide.

      In addition to the direct physical and psychological impacts of sexual violence, the very nature of the crime means that survivors, girls in particular, often suffer from widespread stigma and discrimination from their communities, friends and family. In many countries sexual assault has a severe impact on a girl’s marriage prospects. In cultures where chastity defines a girl’s value and her recognition in the community, sexual violence can drastically reduce a girl’s future prospects of finding a husband and being valued by their family.

      In addition, this rejection can have other severe lifelong impacts. It can restrict access to education and other livelihoods which dramatically reduce a child survivor’s ability to support themselves and their families and, at worst, can often force them to resort to prostitution, drug use/smuggling and other illegal activities.

      • hughsheehy

        Estimates of the fatalities in the war in DRC vary widely, but are in a range of about 3 to about 6 million. MILLIONS dead. The genocide in Rwanda killed up to a million people.

        And as for the problem of finding a husband, many wars created that problem in a different way. WW1, for example. Most of the eligible men were dead. No husbands.

        Yes, sexual abuse or rape during war is bad. Very bad. But don’t distract from the main problem. Wars KILL people in huge numbers. Men, women and children alike.

        • Cheryl Robinson

          I wonder if you would have the same opinion and give the same comments if you were raped or your daughter, wife or mother. Yes your very correct bombs and bullets do kill. But I think your comments are very narrow minded and not at all compassionate towards victims of rape.

          • http://hughsheehy.wordpress.com hughsheehy

            So because I think it’s worse to be shot dead or blown up you think I’m narrow minded and not compassionate?

            I wonder about your definition of compassion. If you had a choice of having your son or daughter raped or having them stood out in a field and blown up by a mortar shell, would you really choose them to be blown up by a mortar shell?

            What I wonder is why there’s so little compassion for all the people who were killed. They’re still dead you know They’re dead today. They’ll be dead tomorrow. Every day that goes by, everything they might ever have had or might ever have enjoyed has been taken from them because they’re dead.

  • Hani AL-Assiry

    God Help Us To Help Them

  • Johnny indo

    God Help Us To Help Them

    Agen Bola