Statement by the Permanent Representative of Lithuania at the UNSC Open Debate “Sexual violence in conflict: preventing sexual violence in conflict through the empowerment of women, gender equality and access to justice”
We thank the Peruvian Presidency of the Security Council for convening an open debate on the issue, which despite all efforts of the international community, still has an atrocious impact on a society.
We welcome the comprehensive report of the UN Secretary-General and its recommendations, and commend Ms. Pramila Patten for her dedication as SRSG on conflict-related sexual violence. We thank Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed and other briefers for their contributions.
Lithuania aligns itself with the statements delivered by the European Union as well as the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security.
Time and again, since 2008, when the Security Council’s resolution 1820 acknowledged the sexual-related sexual violence as a threat to security and an impediment to the restoration of peace, we return to this acute issue.
Time and again, the Secretary-General’s report depicts a sickening picture in 19 countries of the world where rape and gang rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, and other brutalities against women and men, girls and boys are employed by State and non-State actors as tactic of war and terrorism. It is used as a tool to finance their criminal pursuits and recruit to their ranks, to forcibly displace, alter the ethnic or religious identity, control the land and resources.
Unstable political environment, continued armed clashes, weak State structures, the climate of impunity, and stigma related to sexual violence, exacerbate already very grave situation. Yet most sexual crimes don’t ever get reported – because of fear of stigmatization and rejection, sense of insecurity, or simply because there is no one around to report to.
Particularly vulnerable are women in remote, rural areas, displaced and refugee population that live beyond the protection of rule of law institutions.
The only way to effectively address this scourge is a comprehensive and integrated approach on the international, regional and national levels, which entails prevention, early warning, justice and accountability, participation of women in political processes, and their political, social and economic empowerment.
Lithuania continuously underlines the importance of the Secretary-General’s efforts to put emphasis on conflict prevention, preventive diplomacy, peacebuilding and sustaining peace. The overarching priority of prevention should be at the forefront of our fight against sexual violence in conflict – we should look for early warning indicators to identify potential conflict situations.
We commend the Secretary-General and the SRSG for their clear commitment to eradicate this scourge and to further advance the women, peace and security agenda.
Among the positive steps at the UN level we could name efforts to engage with listed national military and police forces for developing action plans to address violations; deployment of women’s protection advisors, who monitor the situation and report on the cases of conflict related sexual violence in the field; the meaningful work of the UN Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict in providing assistance to governments by strengthening their capacity, including in the areas of criminal investigation and prosecution, military justice, legislative reform, protecting victims and witnesses and providing reparations for survivors.
Too often, however, the perpetrators are left unpunished, crimes unresolved, which further fuels new cycles of violence.
We concur with SG’s recommendation that sexual gender-based violence should be systematically applied as designation criteria when adopting or renewing targeted sanctions in situations of armed conflict. This tool could be more widely used to deter sexual violence in conflicts and to seek accountability. International justice mechanisms, such as the International Criminal Court, can also play a critical role.
Having strong national institutions and adequate judiciary and penal framework to this end is essential, as is making sure that national civilian and military justice systems don’t lack national capacity and expertise to prevent, investigate and prosecute sexual violence. With political will and professional assistance, national governments can halt sexual violence in conflict by holding perpetrators to account and delivering justice to victims.
Cooperation mechanisms, including through awareness raising campaigns, action plans and cooperation frameworks, capacity building, and shared good practices, should continue to actively promote effective responses to conflict-related sexual crimes.
We commend the partnership between the Justice Rapid Response initiative and the UN Women. Deployment of justice experts from their joint roster to over 50 missions, greatly contributes to ending impunity for perpetrators, and bridging the gap of international and national legal frameworks to deliver justice to victims.
Another vital issue we should address is care for and protection of survivors of sexual violence. Sexual violence affects entire generations, with stigma on women and their children having lasting repercussions. Public, religious, and community leaders can personally engage in helping to shift the stigma from the victims of sexual abuse to the perpetrators of those heinous crimes. Victims must have access to justice, accountability and redress mechanisms in order to assure their reintegration into respective societies.
Documents and policies do not do the job alone: a different mindset is needed to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality from de jure to de facto. Even the best tools we have won’t tackle sexual violence in conflict if women continue to be on the sidelines of peace negotiations, peacebuilding, and post-conflict reconstruction.
Being an active advocate for gender equality and empowerment of women, Lithuania is already contributing to achieving these goals through various initiatives.
While striving to deploy more gender-balanced peacekeeping troops, Lithuania continuously encourages female military and police personnel to apply. Training is crucial to raise awareness and improve implementation of gender aspects in peace operations. Before their deployment, Lithuanian peacekeepers undertake high quality training on human rights and gender related issues, including eradication of sexual exploitation and abuse, prevention of and response to conflict-related sexual violence. Noticeably, these trainings moved beyond abstract concepts towards more hands-on, scenario-based learning that those working on the ground can relate to.
As gender-responsive legal and judicial system constitutes one of the building blocks of a resilient society, Lithuania remains committed to securing accountability for sexual and gender based violence in conflict through national and international mechanisms.
With the aim to ensuring equal opportunities in all spheres of life, including education, employment, and decision-making, the Lithuanian Government regularly updates the National Programme on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men and the related Action Plan. One of the newly foreseen actions includes the development of gender impact indicators and introduction of gender impact assessment of all governmental programmes, policies and legal decisions.
The President of Lithuania, H.E. Ms Dalia Grybauskaite, chairs the Council of Women World Leaders, a network that aims at mobilizing influential women leaders around the world for collective action on issues of critical importance to women. In June this year, the Women Political Leaders’ Summit will take place in Vilnius, Lithuania, where women world leaders will discuss, among other issues, how women can advance peace and security in the world.
We also commend a promising achievement – the establishment of Women African Leaders’ network, and would encourage similar initiatives in other regions of the world.
In conclusion, all Member States should redouble their efforts to implement SDG 5, in achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls to become actors rather than victims in their societies. All countries should review and revoke any discriminatory laws and practices as well as challenge stereotypes that hinder women’s empowerment. Only then, the hard won progress in the area of women’s rights will be maintained and will contribute to breaking the cycles of gender based violence.
New York, 16 April 2018