By: Sofia Garcia
Just last week, the United Nations Security Council held two Arria-formula meetings open to UN member states, observers, NGOs, and the press. On both occasions, the room felt heavy; men tiptoed around their words and women sat upright, listening intently, almost in indignation. The meetings were titled “Moving from a Culture of Impunity to a Culture of Deterrence: The Use of Sanctions in Addressing Sexual Violence in Conflict” and “On Children Born of Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones”. For both of these meetings, I was in attendance to represent the Global Justice Center and listen to advocates present firsthand accounts of why these issues must be addressed by the international community. These topics have been gaining attention in the media and the international community after the Nobel Committee’s decision to jointly award Yazidi activist Nadia Murad and Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege with a Nobel Peace Prize, honoring their work to end sexual violence and rape as a weapon of war.
Over the past year, the world has borne witness to the Rohingya genocide in Burma. This sparked a conversation among activists and leaders about how the crimes perpetrated against Rohingya women, including torture, rape, and sexual abuse, are inherently gendered (read GJC’s legal brief in which we discuss why a gendered analysis of the Rohingya genocide is paramount, particularly when talking about impunity for sexual and gender-based crimes). However, only after sitting in a room with civil society speakers who presented their lived experiences was I able to understand the severity and urgency of the matter.