Women forging a new security

(May 22, 2011) – A group of six women Nobel Peace Laureates is calling for a concerted global effort to end rape as a weapon of war – and other forms of sexual violence in conflict-affected regions.

Three of the Nobel Peace Laureates—Jody Williams (USA), Mairead Maguire (Northern Ireland) and Shirin Ebadi (Iran)—will be joining over 120 civil society activists, corporate and security sector leaders, personnel from military and peacekeeping forces and academics as they gather in Ottawa, Canada from May 22 -25 for an unprecedented conference to develop strategies for ending rape as a weapon of war.

“Waging war on the bodies of women has got to stop,” says Jody Williams, Chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.  “Like any tactic of war, it can be eliminated.  The magnitude of the problem must be matched by our collective effort. Working together, we can finally bring an end to this scourge on women and their communities.”

Sexual violence takes place in every region of the world and includes rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, mutilation, forced pregnancy and sterilization.

Reasons for the use of sexual violence varies from region to region and conflict to conflict.

It has been used as a tactic to terrorize communities suspected of supporting guerrilla forces, as a way of forcing populations off their lands and it has been used to punish political activism.

In Liberia and Sierra Leone sexual violence has been used as a way of forcing populations off their mineral-rich lands.

And most recently, sexual violence has been used to punish political activism in the Middle East. In the 1990s, sexual violence in Rwanda and in Bosnia and Herzegovina was used as a tactic of war, rather than a consequence of war.

A study published in The American Journal of Public Health this month indicates that nearly two million women in the Congo have been raped in recent years—or an estimated one woman per minute; 1100 per day.

The Women Forging a New Security conference aims to build support for a worldwide movement to stop sexual violence in conflict, ensure an end to impunity and support survivors in their efforts to heal and rebuild their lives and communities.

For more information, check the Nobel Women’s Initiative website.