Statement by South Africa during the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security: Sexual Violence in Conflict, 23 April 2019

Mr President,
Excellencies,
Distinguished briefers,

At the outset, allow me to congratulate you, Minister Heiko Maas, and the Permanent Mission of Germany for organising this debate.

Equally, I wish to extend South Africa’s gratitude to the Secretary-General, Mr António Guterres, SRSG Pramila Patten, as well as our distinguished briefers, Dr Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, Amal Clooney and Inas Miloud, for their thought-provoking interventions.

South Africa believes that violence against women undermines their ability to unlock their potential to flourish in the different aspects of their lives.

Sexual violence, where ever it occurs, fundamentally dehumanises and cause irreparable damage to the human dignity of the victim.  Sexual violence in conflict is often used as an act of war to achieve psychological, military, and political objectives and control.

In areas rich in natural resources, sexual violence is used to depopulate, displace and terrorise communities. The devastating effects of sexual violence have a lasting impact on survivors as they face post-conflict challenges, including trauma, re-victimisation and stigma in their communities.

While anyone can fall victim to sexual violence, South Africa is deeply disturbed that women and girls continue to be disproportionately affected. Many also live through the prolonged trauma of raising children born out of rape, who are often rejected by the society and deprived of their rights and access to social services.  It is for this reason that gender-sensitive responses and programmes must be tailored to be survivor oriented.

Mr President,

South Africa firmly believes that essential services must be provided to the survivors of sexual violence. In line with our long-held position that sexual and reproductive health services are not only an important component of the right to health, they are critical for the overall empowerment of women. In the context of sexual violence in conflict, the lack of access to these services threatens the most sacrosanct of all human rights, namely, the right to life itself.

But how can we expect countries in conflict situations to prioritise these services when the Council remains divided on putting the needs and best interest of survivors in its work?

We are deeply disturbed that the resolution could not sustain the consensus reached over the years on the importance of providing access to sexual and reproductive health services to survivors of sexual violence in conflict. Our efforts on peace and security are diminished while women continue to be under siege and at the receiving end of sexual violence. As a result, we are failing in our duty to protect them from re-victimisation. One has to merely look at the issues on our agenda to witness the widespread acts of sexual violence, which is not restricted to any one country or region.

Mr President,

To effectively address sexual violence in conflict, South Africa believes that we need an integrated comprehensive approach. This includes through the delivery of multisectoral services to ensure reintegration support for survivors, including shelters. We must develop appropriate economic livelihood programmes. This is as an integral part of societal prevention mechanisms, conflict resolution, transitional justice and peace building.

In line with the Framework of Cooperation between the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the African Union Commission, South Africa acknowledges accountability mechanisms as an important part of the means of preventing sexual violence in conflict. This Framework aims to assist AU Member States to combat impunity for sexual violence in conflict and enhancing the capacity of the criminal justice system of conflict and post-conflict countries to respond to suspected cases of sexual violence in conflict.

Mr President,

The Council must demonstrate a discernible transition from rhetoric to reality about the challenges that victims are confronted with in their daily lives during armed conflict. We need to strengthen accountability for perpetrators, with survivors at the heart of our efforts.

South Africa supports the more frequent use of measures under Chapter VI of the UN Charter and support capacity building of States to address the matter at a national level in an integrated manner.

South Africa commends the work of the SRSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict and calls for the strengthening of the capacity of this office.

South Africa supports the recommendation of the Secretary-General to strengthen our efforts aimed at addressing sexual violence in armed conflict.  This inter alia entails: (i) including sexual violence as part of the designation of criteria for sanctions; (ii) addressing the nexus between trafficking in persons and conflict-related sexual violence in accordance with resolution 2331 (2016) and 2388 (2017); (iii) using field visits to draw attention to concerns about sexual violence; and (iv) putting in place constitutional, legislative and institutional arrangements to comprehensively address conflict-related sexual violence.

Mr President,

The security sector of conflict and post-conflict countries must be reformed to prevent and better respond to sexual violence. In order to build effective, non-discriminatory and representative security institutions, it is essential to provide personnel with effective and sustainable gender training and capacity building. Access to justice for survivors of sexual violence would also contribute meaningfully to a well-functioning and gender-sensitive security framework.

Due to the inextricable link between sexual violence in conflict situations and gender inequality, South Africa therefore, advocates for the equal and meaningful participation and full involvement of women in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.

In this regard, Member States must continually look at measures to strengthen the full and effective implementation of Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, by forming partnerships with civil society, the private sector and community-based organizations.

South Africa looks forward to continuing this debate during our Presidency in October as we prepare for the 20th Anniversary of Resolution 1325.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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