Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Determined to lay the foundation for strategic measures for prevention and response to sexual violence in Africa, the African Union (AU) is convening a three-day high-level consultation of experts here this week to work out a framework of action to allow victims to access justice and end impunity.
The framework, according to an AU document, would be based on analysis of the critical gaps in existing responses with regard to prevention, protection and access to essential services in conflict and post-conflict countries,
“Sexual and gender-based violence has attained alarming consequences in conflict-prone countries in Africa to become a matter of international peace and security as well as human rights,” said the AU Commission (AUC).
According to the Commission, the 9-11 Oct. 2013 meeting aims at strengthening the current global effort to combat sexual violence in Africa and beyond.
“The purpose is to dramatically reduce or even eliminate sexual violence, and accelerate the implementation of the urgent responses to the problem of sexual violence, which are required to ensure prevention, protection, access to care and to justice for the victims,” the AUC said.
Eight post-conflict countries will be the focus of discussion at the meeting. They are Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Republic of Southern Sudan, and Republic of Sudan.
Organised within the framework of the African Solidarity Initiative (ASI), the meeting will bring together representatives of the AU member states, the UN system, academics and practitioners working on the issues of prevention and response to sexual violence in Africa in a dialogue to address the compelling situation of sexual violence on the continent.
Launched at the July 2012 AU Summit, ASI is an AUC flagship programme aimed at mobilising commitments and contributions of member states to support ongoing efforts in post-conflict reconstruction and development.
The initiative is designed to encourage and empower African countries, alongside traditional and non-traditional partners, to offer assistance to post-conflict countries with the overall intention of promoting African solidarity and support in addressing the challenges faced by these countries.
As numerous African countries endured decades of armed conflicts that have had traumatic consequences on the lives of the people, the human dignity and human rights of women and girls have been violated due to a systematic culture of rape and other forms of sexual gender-based violence that prevail in the conduct of armed conflict and continue long after conflict has ended.
“The too commonly shared perception of sexual violence as an inevitable by-product of war has contributed to making these atrocities normal occurrences during war and has resulted in widespread and opportunistic sexual violence in post-conflict context,” the AUC observed.
The Commission explained that the long term consequences of these endemic rapes on the fabric of society were difficult to measure.
“Already, the increasing phenomenon of children born out of rape and rejected by the communities bears with it the seeds of future violence and does not bode well for the future of the continent,” it added.