UNITED NATIONS, New York – Ahead of the Global Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, to be hosted by the United Kingdom next week, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, warns that without immediate action, at least 20,000 women and girls, or two women every hour, will suffer sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this year alone.
According to data compiled by the Congolese Government, with technical and financial support from UNFPA, 18,795 cases of gender-based violence were reported in the DRC in 2012. “Even in normal situations, sexual violence often goes unreported,” says Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s Executive Director. “In a conflict like in Eastern Congo, we know that cases are often not reported because of fear of retribution or shame – and so, the scale of the problem is likely to be much larger than the numbers we have.”
Globally, 35 per cent of women have experienced either intimate partner or non-partner sexual violence.
“Gender-based violence does not discriminate according to nationality, ethnicity, education or class,” explains Dr. Osotimehin. “It happens everywhere. But we know too well that in conflict situations its occurrence increases because of insecurity.”
UNFPA works with a number of partners to eliminate gender-based violence, early marriage, trafficking and other forms of sexual violence in conflict. It firmly believes that rapid response to crisis, rights-based legal environments and integrating gender-based violence programming within sexual and reproductive health care are some elements that must be put in place.
“For sustained change, gender equality must be upheld, the status of women and girls elevated, violence rendered socially unacceptable, and thus, the cycle of violence can be broken,” says Dr. Osotimehin.
UNFPA is calling on donor countries to step up their commitments to fund programmes to prevent and address all forms of gender-based violence. Between 700,000 and 2 million women and girls are trafficked across borders annually. When a crisis hits, women and girls become even more vulnerable to exploitation. Annual profits generated from trafficking in human beings are as high as $32 billion. In comparison, donors only contribute 1 per cent of the same figure to the protection, human rights and rule of law sector in humanitarian crises.
“We must not wait for cases to be counted and documented before we take action,” says Dr. Osotimehin, adding that “we need to ensure now that women are protected from sexual violence.”
For more information, please contact: