India has asserted in the UN that prosecution of perpetrators of sexual violence against women and children in conflict is essential as it underscored the need to increase involvement of women in conflict prevention and resolution. “Despite the increased focus on the Women Peace and Security agenda, along with the evolving normative framework during the last decade and a half, women and girls continue to be major victims despite being non-combatants,” India’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Tanmaya Lal said at UN.
Participating in a UN Security Council debate on sexual violence in conflict as a tactic of war and terrorism on Monday, Lal said the heinous crimes against humanity perpetrated by terror networks such as ISIS in west Asia, Boko Haram in parts of west Africa and AI Shabaab in east Africa, especially against women and girl children, are stark reminders of the serious challenges that need to be overcome by the international community.
“We also agree that there is a need to increase and institutionalise the involvement of women in conflict prevention and resolution. This requires not only normative advice but capacity building and institution building at the ground level,” he said, adding that the issue of women peace and security cannot be seen in isolation from the wider societal context involving gender and development issues.
He stressed that “prosecution is essential for prevention” and the international community has an important role in helping build adequate resources and capacities in this regard. India recently contributed to the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone. The Special Court was among the landmark tribunals that also tried and convicted persons for crimes that included the use of child soldiers and forced marriages. India, which has been the lead troop contributor to UN peacekeeping missions, had in 2007 deployed the first ever all-women formed police unit for peacekeeping with the UN Mission in Liberia.
In keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to higher representation of Indian female peacekeepers in police units to UN peacekeeping missions, Lal added that India is committed to fulfilling the pledge to have 15 per cent of military observers as women by the end of this year. India has also committed to provide another all-female formed police unit. Lal informed the Council that India took the lead in hosting specialised training courses for peacekeepers on sexual violence in armed conflict situations that have focused on the role of women in the context of post conflict situations.
Last month, India hosted the third such specialised course for female military officers was organized by the Centre for UN Peacekeeping in New Delhi in partnership with UN Women. Over 40 women officers from nearly 30 countries attended the course. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said at the UNSC meeting that sexual violence in conflict is no longer seen as merely a women’s issue or as a “lesser evil” in a false hierarchy of human rights violations. “Instead, it is rightly viewed as legitimate threat to security and durable peace that requires an operational security and justice response, in addition to ensuring multi-dimensional services for survivors of such crimes,” Mohammed added.
She said that a robust legislative framework is now in place, including a series of precise Security Council resolutions with new tools to drive change and progress. As for accountability at the international and national level, “there is a gradual shift from a reality in which it is cost-free to rape a woman, child or man in conflict, to one where there are consequences for anyone who commits, commands or condones such crimes,” the deputy UN chief said.