Security Council Takes Action to Identify and Help End Sexual Violence
June 19, 2008
By finally recognizing that it needs to gather detailed information, the Security Council took a major step toward confronting the grim reality of sexual violence in conflict.
Marianne Mollmann, women’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch

The UN Security Council’s new resolution on sexual violence is a historic achievement for a body that has all too often ignored the plight of women and girls in conflict, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch applauds the council for setting out in the resolution a clear path to systematic information-gathering on sexual violence. Until now, the Security Council has asked for information on such violence only in selected cases.

“By finally recognizing that it needs to gather detailed information, the Security Council took a major step toward confronting the grim reality of sexual violence in conflict,” said Marianne Mollmann, women’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch. “And that reality means that every day many women and girls will be raped.”

The resolution was initiated by the United States and adopted on June 19, by unanimous vote, after a debate presided over by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the United Nations. Key provisions include a call for concrete benchmarks to measure the effectiveness of policies to prevent sexual violence; the possibility of sanctions against perpetrators of sexual violence; and a directive to the secretary-general of the United Nations to gather information on the prevalence of sexual violence in conflict. The resolution also calls for UN peacekeeping forces to better prepare themselves to protect civilians against sexual violence, and underscores the vital importance of women participating in preventing conflict, maintaining peace and security, and building peace post-conflict. It also calls for better implementation of the UN’s “zero tolerance” policy on sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeeping forces.

“This resolution sends a clear message throughout the UN system: rape is a crime that should be prevented and when it’s not, it should be systematically reported and effectively prosecuted,” said Mollmann. “The resolution contains the building blocks for what could finally bridge the gap between good intentions and bad facts. But to have a genuine impact, the Security Council and the United Nations as a whole need to take concrete action.”