Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict remains a top priority for the UK government. Ending impunity, bringing perpetrators to justice and providing training to the military and police are all important, but we also need to tackle the stigma that many survivors suffer.
Since early 2016 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s network of posts have been hosting workshops in countries affected by sexual violence to understand specific cultural, social and economic issues which prevent survivors from re-integrating into their communities.
Workshops in Burma, Colombia, Iraq, Kosovo, Nepal, Nigeria, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Uganda have acted as a practical starting point to find ways to address country specific challenges around stigma. Survivors, experts, civil society and the media have all taken part in these workshops to share their knowledge and expertise.
This week (28-30 November) the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will host a three day conference at Wilton Park which will bring together the workshop findings, plus previous civil society research, with the aim of developing the ‘Principles for Global Action’. This will be used as a guide to understand, in different local and regional circumstances, why it is caused and what can be done to end it.
These principles will become the cornerstone of the end stigma campaign and will be used to inform and encourage the international community to take action to end stigma.
Speaking at the event, Baroness Anelay said:
Tackling the stigma of sexual violence is extremely important. I have met survivors who tell me they have been ridiculed, shamed, ostracised and shunned by their own families and communities. All too often survivors are made to feel worthless, cut off from support networks and not welcome in the villages and towns they grew up in.
We must challenge these attitudes and social understandings that accept, condone or justify sexual violence. Tackling the stigma will not only help individuals to rebuild their lives, it will also help communities to reconcile and heal after conflict.
That is why ending stigma is so important and why the UK is bringing together survivors, experts, civil society plus many others to challenge these attitudes and work to end stigma.