Gone are the days when sexual violence against women was no crime!
Historically, states have rarely prioritized the issue of sexual violence which occurs especially in times of war and aftermath of war. And though a number of international instruments and mechanisms for the protection of women’s human rights exist, sexual violence during armed conflicts was not counted among cases of this sort until the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Moreover, until the adoption of Resolution 1325, women’s issues had seldom been considered by the Security Council which has the mandate to ensure the maintenance of international peace and Security.
Now, with the passage of Resolution 1820 which is in tandem with Resolution 1325, an establishment of the effects of sexual violence on international peace and security has been made. This establishment as well as the responsibility it bestows on states which happen to be in situations of this kind, is likely to create a policy environment where national governments and regional or sub-regional bodies will be empowered to take appropriate measures in dealing with sexual violence. Where there are already existing laws or mechanisms to deal with sexual violence, Resolution 1820 can reinforce such systems as it is happening with the amendment of laws, strengthening of efforts and the precipitation of actions that are being pursued by DRC and Liberia to curb sexual violence.
Sexual violence against women during armed conflicts has in recent times gained more international attention than in the past owing to the number of international instruments, mechanisms, approaches and measures currently in existence. Resolution 1820, the most recent of all and by the Security Council, the highest organ of the United Nations, presents an opportunity and demonstrates an increased effort to deal effectively with the problem of sexual violence during and after armed conflicts. Despite the prospects of this resolution, several challenges hinder its effective implementation to yield impressive results. Among all the challenges, the one which if dealt with, will make a great difference are cultural beliefs and attitudes towards women. Viewing women through a different lens with respect will make a great impact and could in turn make all other challenges be overcome.