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More work at hand

A view of the diverse challenges shows that a lot more remains to be done with respect to effective implementation of the UNSCR 1820 in order to mitigate sexual violence in war affected countries. A number of people, even women, are ignorant of the rights of women. This is one reason why awareness campaigns are organized to create or increase public awareness of this problem and its effects so as to check its rate of occurrence. There is a need for more efforts to educate both men and women about their rights and more particularly on sexual violence against women. The public must be continuously educated on this matter through all media possible. The more the issue of sexual violence is discussed, the more awareness is created; the more responsible people will be in ensuring protection of women and girls from sexual violence;  and consequently the more women’s rights and dignity will be respected.

Also, a difficulty remains with the judicial system in war-affected or recovering countries. Impunity to perpetrators of sexual violence encourages others to follow suit. Not all perpetrators are subjected to trials, and in cases where they are and are sentenced to imprisonment, they are soon released because of the poor nature of prison systems. This defect could be mitigated by the judicial system exploring alternative ways of bringing perpetrators to book while ensuring that punishment meted out is an adequate deterrent. For instance, a perpetrator could be subjected to community service under strict supervision for a long period. This could in turn contribute to national development. It would also be helpful if judges are provided with more training on handling cases of sexual violence committed in times of armed conflicts.

The police is the first law enforcement agency to ensure that women and girls are protected from sexual violence. They are also to guide victims in following the right legal procedures. One problem with the police as a security sector is its underequipped nature. There is the need to make provision of transport and communication equipment a priority in order to respond quickly and effectively to crimes of sexual violence.  Another serious problem with the police is that the educational level and the competence of many police officers are not satisfactory. People who are recruited into the police service must be well educated and competent. For those who are already in the service, efforts must be made to provide them with refresher courses periodically and be monitored as they perform their duties.

To ensure that victims are provided with the needed assistance especially in terms of medical, sexual and reproductive health, it is necessary to have health facilities distributed across the country. Some victims have to travel long distances in order to have access to hospitals. This means some victims have delayed treatments and this is likely to present health risks. As a recommendation, health centers-even if to provide only first aid assistance-should be set up in all provinces, counties, districts, or towns to provide basic care and treatment to victims of sexual violence. Mobile health facilities which bring medical services directly to the doorsteps of the victims also need to be considered.

With respect to misbehavior on the part of UN peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel, the UN must endeavor to redeem the image of respective missions and humanitarian bodies by making integrity an important criterion in selecting its personnel.

The UNSCR 1820 itself shows certain inherent weaknesses but these should not discourage implementation. Also, other types of violence that in practice accompany the act of sexual violence should not be ignored though not emphasized in the resolution. After all, ignoring other forms of violence that go hand in hand with the occurrence of sexual violence will not help in drastically abating sexual violence.

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