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Sexual and reproductive health services must be available for survivors of rape in conflicts

The World Association for Sexual Health stresses that sexual and reproductive health services are crucial for recovery of sexual violence survivors in conflict zones and other situations. The United Nations must aim for survivor-focused policies in the protection of women, girls and vulnerable people during conflicts.

The Security Council of the United Nations has adopted a resolution (S/RES/2467-2019) under the title of Women and peace and security: Sexual violence in conflict, which omitted sexual and reproductive health entirely. The resolution significantly weakens the ongoing work to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of victims of sexual violence during conflicts, as well as other victims of gender-based or sexuality-based violence, harassment and oppression.

The omission of any direct references to sexual and reproductive health in the language of the resolution may have significant repercussions, especially when the omissions are linked to the global gag rule by the US against any organizations that provide abortions. Human rights organizations have reported that the gag rule has already resulted to reductions in key sexual and reproductive health services in areas, where access to such services is not assured in the first place (1). 

The World Association of Sexual Health (WAS) stresses that medical and psychological care pertaining to sexual and reproductive health are crucial to recovery and wellbeing of the survivors of sexual violence among other health services including mental health and therapy. Full access to sexual and reproductive health services includes emergency contraception, abortion, STI prophylaxis, psychological support, and other means for the survivors of sexual violence to control their own bodies, reproduction and relationships. 

The Declaration of Sexual Rights (2014) states that everyone has the right to the highest attainable standard of sexual health, which includes full access to reproductive health services including abortion (Article 7). All genders have the right to protection from violence, and no survivor of sexual violence must be declined help and services regardless of their ethnicity, social origin, gender identity, marital status or any other characteristic (Articles 1 and 5).

WAS urges the United Nations and all of the member states to aim for survivor-focused and prevention policies and recommendations regarding sexual violence in conflict zones and oppressive conditions. Specific attention must be aimed at vulnerable populations like LGBTQ+ people, indigenous people, disabled people, and refugees and migrant populations worldwide. Policies and recommendations should also take into account gender-based systemic violence and oppression, intersectionality of discrimination, stigmatization and ostracism following victimization, and full accountability of the perpetrators (2). 

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WAS is an international organization, with more than one hundred member organizations across the globe, that promotes and advocates for sexual health and sexual rights throughout the lifespan and across the world by advancing sexuality research, comprehensive sexuality education, and clinical care and services for everyone.


References
1) Report by the Human Rights Watch: Trump’s ‘Mexico City Policy’ or ‘Global Gag Rule’, Questions and Answers https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/02/14/trumps-mexico-city-policy-or-global-gag-rule
2) Statement by the group of German NGO’s: https://www.gwi-boell.de/sites/default/files/statement_1325_en.pdf

WAS congratulates Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, winners of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize

The World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) congratulates Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, winners of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. Both are fighters against sexual violence and advocates of sexual rights for all.


Illustrations: Niklas Elmehed – MLA style: The Nobel Peace Prize for 2018. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Media AB 2018.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and combating, such war crimes. Mukwege is the helper who has devoted his life to defending these victims. Murad is the witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others. Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.

The physician Mukwege has spent large parts of his adult life helping the victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since the Panzi Hospital was established in Bukavu in 2008, Mukwege and his staff have treated thousands of patients who have fallen victim to such assaults. Most of the abuses have been committed in the context of a long-lasting civil war that has cost the lives of more than six million Congolese.

Mukwege is the foremost, most unifying symbol, both nationally and internationally, of the struggle to end sexual violence in war and armed conflicts. His basic principle is that “justice is everyone’s business”. Men and women, officers and soldiers, and local, national and international authorities alike all have a shared responsibility for reporting, and combating, this type of war crime. The importance of Mukwege’s enduring, dedicated and selfless efforts in this field cannot be overstated. He has repeatedly condemned impunity for mass rape and criticised the Congolese government and other countries for not doing enough to stop the use of sexual violence against women as a strategy and weapon of war.

Murad is herself a victim of war crimes. She refused to accept the social codes that require women to remain silent and ashamed of the abuses to which they have been subjected. She has shown uncommon courage in recounting her own sufferings and speaking up on behalf of other victims.

Murad is a member of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq, where she lived with her family in the remote village of Kocho. In August 2014 the Islamic State (IS) launched a brutal, systematic attack on the villages of the Sinjar district, aimed at exterminating the Yazidi population. In Murad’s village, several hundred people were massacred. The younger women, including underage children, were abducted and held as sex slaves. While a captive of the IS, Murad was repeatedly subjected to rape and other abuses. Her assaulters threatened to execute her if she did not convert to their hateful, inhuman version of Islam.

Murad is just one of an estimated 3,000 Yazidi girls and women who were victims of rape and other abuses by the IS army. The abuses were systematic, and part of a military strategy. Thus they served as a weapon in the fight against Yazidis and other religious minorities.

After a three-month nightmare Murad managed to flee. Following her escape, she chose to speak openly about what she had suffered. In 2016, at the age of just 23, she was named the UN’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.

This year marks a decade since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1820 (2008), which determined that the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict constitutes both a war crime and a threat to international peace and security. This is also set out in the Rome Statute of 1998, which governs the work of the International Criminal Court. The Statute establishes that sexual violence in war and armed conflict is a grave violation of international law. A more peaceful world can only be achieved if women and their fundamental rights and security are recognised and protected in war.

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize is firmly embedded in the criteria spelled out in Alfred Nobel’s will. Mukwege and Murad have both put their personal security at risk by courageously combating war crimes and seeking justice for the victims. They have thereby promoted the fraternity of nations through the application of principles of international law.

Learn more about this year’s Nobel Peace Prize: https://bit.ly/2QrYPIg

Also, the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) invites you to watch the lecture:

The Lecture of Nadia Murad, Nobel Peace Prize

The Lecture of Dr. Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize

WAS Education Award: Excellence and Innovation in Sexuality Education 2019 – A first call for nominations

In recognition of the special contribution sexuality educators make to the overall fields of education, health and sexology, the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) presents this prestigious award at its next World Congress In Mexico City. WAS invites nominations from individuals and organizations to be considered for the award.

These awards are to recognize the special contribution sexuality educators make to the overall fields of education, health and sexology. They are presented in three categories:

A. Non-Government Organizations or Individuals

B. Academic programmes

C. Governmental and Government-sponsored programmes

WAS Sexuality Education Committee (SEC) has responsibility of WAS Education Awards.

Deadline for applications for WAS Education Awards is 31st of January 2019. The official announcement of the winner(s) will be at the WAS Congress in Mexico City in October 12 – 15, 2019.

Applications can be sent to the Chair of WAS Sexuality Education Committee: osmo.kontula@vaestoliitto.fi.

 

WAS statement about marital rape and related issues in India

The Gujarat High Court in India has stated that sex without consent within marriage should be considered rape. The court demanded the abolition of the marital rape exemption in the penal code of India and stated that “the law must uphold the bodily autonomy of all women, irrespective of their marital status”.

The World Association of Sexual Health (WAS) supports the statement by the Gujarat High Court, and urges the Government of India to take steps necessary to criminalise marital rape. Violence within marriage is a widespread problem in India (NFHS-4), and it is connected to child or early marriages and forming marriages by force or coercion especially in rural areas. Even if the numbers have been declining, there is a dire need for enforcement of legislation that protects the rights of girls and women.

According to the Declaration of Sexual Rights (2014) everyone has the right to autonomy and bodily integrity (article 3), and everyone has the right to be free from all forms of violence and coercion (article 5). These rights apply to all women regardless of their marital status.

The Declaration also states that everyone has the right to enter, form, and dissolve marriage and other similar types of relationships based on equality and full and free consent (article 11). Thus it condemns practices like child marriage, early marriage and forced marriage along with all forms of coercion within marriage.

In order to fulfil the sexual rights of all women and girls, legislation that protects women’s bodily autonomy and sexual rights must be implemented and enforced actively on state level, in sub-districts and locally. But legislation alone is not enough. It must be backed up by sexuality education that promotes consensual sexual relations, privacy and gender equality.

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WAS is an international organization, with more than one hundred member organizations across the globe, that promotes and advocates for sexual health and sexual rights throughout the lifespan and across the world by advancing sexuality research, comprehensive sexuality education, and clinical care and services for everyone.