SLRC Uganda and DRC featured in House of Lords Sexual Violence in Conflict report
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15 April 2016
The House of Lords Select Committee on Sexual Violence in Conflict International Development Committee (IDC) has just published Sexual Violence in Conflict: A War Crime. The report, from their inquiry into Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, references and features submissions from SLRC’s work in Uganda and DRC. The document calls on the British government to set out ambitious policy goals for reducing conflict-related sexual violence to ensure the international momentum created by the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) is not lost.
In its joint submission with the Overseas Development Institute Social Development programme to the inquiry, the SLRC Uganda case study focused on stigma and how it made victims and survivors of sexual violence in conflict vulnerable to further crimes.
Dyan Mazurana, Research Director, FIC-Tufts, and SLRC Uganda Country Lead, is quoted as saying: “It is crucial to understand that stigma, especially against sexual violence households, can play a central role in making them [victims] ‘fair game’ for more crime and harm.”
Several possible explanations are given for this: victims lacked status and so no one would defend them or come to their aid; their land was vulnerable to theft because local leaders and courts would not support them or enforce rulings; and children and women were targeted because they did not have the social connections and resources to defend themselves.
Additionally, Dyan’s research discussing the role of traditional and religious leaders in supporting victims of sexual war crimes to be accepted back into their communities and treated with dignity and respect, and the challenges facing victims that had been physically or mentally injured in receiving care and rehabilitation were also cited.
Joint JSRP and SLRC DRC research in the Democratic Republic of Congo, just published in Getting the balance right? Sexual violence response in the Democratic Republic of Congo: A comparison between 2011 and 2014, reveals another factor complicating the legal aspect of responding to violence: local people believe that the women are seeking justice for personal gain, often based on first-hand knowledge of the alleged perpetrators being put in prison or forced to pay. This results in Congolese nationals becoming disengaged with the topic, considering sexual violence to be an international ‘thing’.
The case of the Democratic Republic of Congo suggests that the exclusively legal approach to sexual violence should be accompanied by more educational approaches on sexual relations and reproductive health. In the legal sector, special attention needs to be given to pre-judicial, investigative capacities and the respect for rights of suspects of violence.
To read more about SLRC’s work in Uganda, including relevant briefing papers, visit the country page here.
The full report from the House of Lords inquiry can be downloaded here.