I just wanted to acknowledge the representations that have been made to me via Twitter in regard to the terrible crimes against women in the DRC and to let people know some of the action that the British Government is taking in this regard.
DRC is one of the worst place in the world to be born a girl. Women and girls are systematically disadvantaged and on the global gender equality index DRC ranks 137 out of 138 countries. Nearly two thirds of married women report being physically or sexually abused by their partner and this underlying problem is overlaid by horrendous incidents of sexual violence by men in uniform in conflict affected areas.
As International Ministerial Champion for tackling VAWG across the world – clearly I have been pursuing what action we can further take as a government.
The international community is united in condemning the high levels of sexual violence in the DRC and the UK plays a vocal part in bringing concerns directly to the attention of President Kabila and his ministers.
In addition to the development of our National Action Plan to deliver UNSCR 1325 commitments on Women Peace and Security in the DRC we have also developed a specific DRC sexual Violence Strategy which focuses on human rights training for the army, awareness-raising and implementation of legislation medical and psycho-social support, legal support for victims and high-level advocacy with senior DRC government. DFID are currently providing over £30 million per year to the UN Humanitarian Pooled Fund for DRC.
Clearly the situation is horrific – and it is vital that political leaders (including military leadership) in the DRC should continue to be encouraged to call for a step change to better address the vicious cycle of impunity for wartime sexual violence. The recent conviction of Lt Col. Kabibi for mass rape in South Kivu serves as one positive example of how tackling impunity at the local level can potentially provide a powerful deterrent to other military leaders.
One key issue is that despite wartime sexual violence being recognised as a grave breach of international humanitarian law since the early 1990s it is still inadequately recognised, reported or addressed.
I am meeting Michelle Bachelet on Monday – the Head of UN Women – and hope to be able to discuss this and other matters pertaining to VAWG across the world.