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Central African Republic: SRSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura concludes two agreements

Posted: Monday, 17 December 2012, Central African Republic | Author: Office of the Special

Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict

Upon her arrival, SRSG on sexual violence in conflict Zeinab Hawa Bangura greets the women of Bria, CAR. (CREDIT: UN Photo/Cristina Silveiro)Returning from her first field visit since taking up her post in September, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura is bringing with her two agreements with key stakeholders in the peace process in the Central African Republic (CAR).

The Joint Communiqué concluded with the Government lists commitments which include fighting impunity for crimes of sexual violence, ensuring the protection of women, boys and girls from sexual violence in the context of an effective monitoring of the peace agreement, and greater support for services to survivors. The second agreement is a Joint Communiqué of the DDR Steering Committee, comprising representatives of the Government, armed groups, the UN and other members of the international community. One of the key points in this agreement requires that political-military groups must identify and immediately release vulnerable groups such as women and children.

During her visit, SRSG Bangura met with President François Bozizé and the Government, with survivors of sexual violence, women’s groups, women MPs, leaders of the armed groups that are parties to the peace agreement, the leadership of the national army and police, and NGOs. She also visited two regions outside of the capital – Bria and Paoua.

“Women in Bria and Paoua told me they want peace and security, for the armed groups to be disarmed, and for women and children to be released. They have had enough of war and violence,” underlined SRSG Bangura.

While on a fact finding mission in Central African Republic, SRSG on sexual violence in armed conflict Zeinab Hawa Bangura meets with President Francois Bozize Yangouvonda (Bangui, CAR). (CREDIT: UN Photo/Cristina Silveiro)Conflict-related sexual violence in CAR is a significant problem. Incidents of sexual violence have been reported particularly in areas controlled by political-military groups and where other armed forces and bandits are present. Women and children are still being held and are sexually abused. There are also serious concerns related to external armed groups, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and elements from Chad operating in the Central African Republic.

It is clear that the victims and survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence do not want to talk about what they have been subjected to. The culture of stigma, silence and denial surrounding this issue is acute and tends to discourage survivors from seeking help, even where services exist.

After spending time listening to their plight, SRSG on sexual violence in conflict Zeinab Hawa Bangura bids farewell to the women in Bria, CAR. (CREDIT: UN Photo/Cristina Silveiro)“It is not the women who have been abused who should feel ashamed, but the perpetrators. We will make sure that perpetrators are held accountable, and have no place to hide. We will go after them with all our means."

There is a critical lack of essential health and psychosocial services for survivors of sexual violence. It is necessary to ensure that survivors have access to a full range of services, and that they are able to reintegrate into their communities.

“CAR needs peace, security and economic development, which is why the peace agreement is crucial for this country. So if there is a breach by any party to the peace agreement, I will not hesitate to use the tools given to me by the Security Council. These include naming and shaming, recommendation for sanctions and referrals to the International Criminal Court (ICC),” concluded SRSG Zainab Bangura.