The resolution creating this international day intervines 15 years after several international jurisdictions recognised sexual violence to be a crime against humanity. Before that, sexual violence was considered by the UN as inevitable actions resulting from armed conflicts.
Women and girls as the designated victims
As a result, the UNO pointed out its resolution the specific statute of women and girls, who are “particularly targeted” by the sexual violence, even though men and boys are also recognized to be victims. It is still hard to establish precise documentation on the matter, especially as experts estimate that for each rape reported in connection with a conflict, 10 to 20 cases go undocumented.
Women’s bodies as real war weapons
The reason is the following: women have ever been contemplated as properties, that in wartime serve as currency. As the French historian Fabrice Vergili said, “capturing women is part of the war economy”.
Forced pregnancies are for example often organized by the armies in Democratic Republic of Congo in order to disintegrate the social fabric. The children are called “snake-children'' as if they were a poison to the population. They are abandoned and their mothers are often excluded of the comunnity, or even pushed to commit suicide because of the shame they represent. Women are judged to be responsible for their pregnancy, eluding men’s actions in the process of these violences.
Such sexual violences aren’t the doing of supposed remote tribes; Western countries taken as example regarding human rights are also guilty of these violences. Violation of women was for instance used as a tool of torture and intimidation by harkis in Algeria (Muslim Algerians who served as auxiliaries in the French Army) no later than the 1960ies. This shows how the mistreatment of women is worldwide institutionalised.
19th of June and #Metoo movement: a fight for a change of perception of women
Both the international day or the elimination of sexual violence in conflict and the #MeToo movement call for a change of perception of women’s bodies. Women’s bodies are their own and cannot be possessed.
Celebrating the 19th of June means supporting women’s rights. More than just liberating the speech about terrible sexual violence in order to change mentalities, the movement also demands legal tools of all sorts to be implemented : condamnation of perpetrators, consideration of the victims at the police station, procedures in the labor world.
Remember, acting for the elimination of sexual violence means acting for the recognition of women’s empowerment at the international level. It means acting for human rights.
Chloé is a French volunteer in Praxis organisation involved in the International Day for the elimination of sexual violence in conflict campaign.