International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict

The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) recognizes June 19 as the annual International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. The date was established by the United Nations General Assembly on June 19, 2015 through A/RES/69/293 to raise awareness of the crimes related to sexual violence in conflict and the need to stop them, as well as to honor victims, survivors, and those working to end these practices. The date of June 19 was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1820, which covers the topic of sexual violence as a tactic of war.

The 2018 International Day, marking the fourth annual observance, is dedicated to the theme of “The Plight and Rights of Children Born of War.” Children conceived through wartime rape and similar circumstances, as with survivors, frequently bear disproportionate burdens related to the legacy of war, including trauma and stigmatization. In addition to an increased likelihood of experiencing psychological issues related to identity, children conceived through wartime sexual violence can be left stateless and vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups as well as trafficking and exploitation.

UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict is an inter-entity body of the United Nations dedicated to coordinating the work of 13 different offices to end the practice of sexual violence in both wartime and post-conflict settings. UN Action works with the goal of increasing the effectiveness of advocacy efforts, raising the level of coordination and accountability and the international level, and supporting national-level efforts to stop these crimes. To accomplish its mission, UN Action promotes the engagement of women in conflict prevention and works to ensure that their influence is central to initiatives for peace negotiation and post-conflict transition and reconstruction. In addition to this, UN Action encourages and supports vital services dedicated to survivors of these crimes, including access to healthcare as well as legal and economic assistance.

On April 16, 2018, the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, released an official report on conflict-related sexual violence. The latest annual report by the Secretary General on the topic, the 2018 edition provides information on the state of sexual violence in conflict in 19 countries, along with related recommendations. Remarking on the 2018 observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, Secretary General Guterres said:

Sexual violence in conflict is a threat to our collective security and a stain on our common humanity.

Its effects can echo across generations, through trauma, stigma, poverty, poor health and unwanted pregnancy. Children conceived through wartime rape often struggle with issues of identity and belonging for decades after the guns have fallen silent.

They may be left in a legal limbo, or at risk of becoming stateless. They are vulnerable to recruitment, trafficking and exploitation, with broad implications for peace and security, as well as human rights.

Their mothers may be marginalized and shunned by their own families and communities. These women and children are sometimes seen as affiliates of armed and violent extremist groups, rather than as victims and survivors.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, we amplify the voices of these forgotten victims of war, who suffer stigma, shame and exclusion in societies polarized by armed conflict.

On this day, the Auschwitz Institute joins with the international community in remembering the victims and survivors of sexual violence carried out in conflict. AIPR recognizes the uniquely significant roles played by sexual and gender-based violence in the commission of atrocity crimes and redoubles its commitment to include provisions on this theme in its international training and capacity building programs. As such, the Auschwitz Institute will continue to support the mainstreaming of gender considerations in the development of prevention policies and institutions, namely early warning systems, around the world.