UK launches initiative to tackle sexual violence in conflict

Foreign Secretary William Hague and the UK team of experts working on preventing sexual violence in conflict situations

The UK Government has created a Team of Experts to be deployed to conflict-affected countries to help fight against sexual violence in conflict.

The initiative is part of the Government’s campaign to prevent the use of rape and other forms of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

Speaking at a recent event to launch the initiative, Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “The sad truth today is that the perpetrators of these appalling, life-shattering crimes still tend to go unpunished.

“Many hundreds of thousands of survivors live with the stigma, shame and burden, in many countries around the world. And their ranks are being added to all the time, including in Syria, where the number of refugees who have reported being raped is truly shocking.”
Mr. Hague said the UK wants to use their “diplomatic influence and resources to increase the number of perpetrators of sexual violence who are brought to justice, and to build up the legal and practical capability of other countries to tackle these crimes themselves.”
Tackling sexual violence and rape, Mr. Hague said, “is a moral issue, because the individuals concerned have a right to justice and support, and because we must shift the stigma from the survivors of rape to the perpetrators. But it is also central to foreign policy, because sexual violence perpetuates division and conflict, undermining international peace and security.”

The Foreign Secretary said the UK was “determined to help shatter the culture of impunity for wartime rape, and to rally the world to do more to help survivors.”

He added: “We must overturn the age-old assumptions that rape is somehow an inevitable by-product of conflict; and confront its use in the same way that we have confronted slavery and are urgently seeking an International Arms Trade Treaty.”

The new UK Team of Experts draws on the skills of doctors, lawyers, police officers, psychologists and forensic scientists, human rights activists, among others. “These are all people with the skills to assist with investigations and prosecutions; to help with the care of victims and witnesses; and to train local authorities,” Mr. Hague said.

Betty Makoni, Founder of the Girl Child Network, is one of the experts.