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Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

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Ministerial dialogue B: Hidden Victims of Sexual Violence


Speaker: Intervention by The Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja


Thank you, and thank you Chair, our speakers and Ministers for their insightful remarks.

It is imperative that we acknowledge that most victims of sexual violence are in fact hidden. While women and girls as a group are the most associated as victims of the crime, reporting of incidence by individuals remains tragically low, and impacts our collective understanding of the depth of this scourge, and how we can best apply our prevention and response efforts.

As we heard this morning during the opening plenary, sexual violence in conflict targets the most vulnerable members of society. It is not only an occurrence in conflict situations, but is exacerbated there.

It is an exacerbation of existing imbalances and injustices within society, of which gender inequality is the most cross-cutting of all.

While the victims of sexual violence are overwhelmingly women and girls, men and boys, are of course also targeted as are children and youth, and those facing multiple forms of disadvantage - including displaced persons, persons with disabilities, racial minorities, indigenous peoples, and those targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Our responses therefore need to reach those whose voices are silenced

  • by being sufficiently targeted to reach them
  • and comprehensive enough to meet their needs.

Our responses also need to comprehend and overcome the issues that stop women, and girls, men and boys from coming forward to report sexual violence in conflict, namely

  • stigma and shame
  • legislative environments that fail to criminalise rape or indeed criminalise victims, and
  • a lack of trust in legal processes.

Our responses must also coordinate our health and justice responses.

Australia takes seriously its responsibility to ensure that its humanitarian responses take into account all vulnerable groups.

In 2013 the Australian Government released its first Protection in Humanitarian Action Framework.

This commits Australia to funding and advocating for dedicated protection programs, as well as for protection to be mainstreamed in our humanitarian action. It identifies three priority areas for Australia's protection work:

  • being accountable to affected populations
  • protecting people with disability, and
  • preventing and responding to gender based violence.

Australia also supports a global Sexual and Reproductive Health Programme in Crisis and Post-Crisis settings (SPRINT) which aims to ensure the Minimum Initial Service Package is implemented in humanitarian settings.

And we continue to focus on protection in our humanitarian action, including in our work in the Asia Pacific Region

  • Such as our recent emergency responses to the situations in the Solomon Islands and the Philippines
  • as well as our ongoing work in fragile states.

Finally, as international actors, it is essential we use all tools at our disposal, including diplomatic means, to engage in collective action to recognise hidden victims of sexual violence and improve our responses to the diversity of their needs.

Australia is committed to doing this across our work – at the UN, through our aid program and in the field.

Last Updated: 11 September 2014
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