The Horn of Africa countries share the unfortunate characteristic of having fragile and often disintegrated state structures that suffer from a lack of democracy, absence of transparency, corruption, poor rule of law and systemic human rights violations. This, intertwined with recurrent conflicts, makes the region one of the most unstable in Africa, or indeed the world. Militarization and pockets of armed conflicts spread throughout the region, destabilizing communities, violating women’s human rights, and threatening their well-being. Consequently, sexual violence has characterized these areas of conflict in the region.
As SIHA commemorates the 10th -year anniversary of the International Day of Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict; it is important that;
We dedicate this press statement to all those who have fought against or who have been subjected to the atrocities of sexual violence in conflict, and those who will continue to risk their lives in standing up for such absolute human rights violations in the hope of putting an end to these crimes.
Throughout the region in the conflict and post-conflict areas, women are at risk of sexual violence in the form of rape, gang rape and other criminal acts that are typically enabled by a strong culture of silence and shame. The use of sexual violence as a weapon of war in the region has garnered the most attention nationally and internationally, however it is by no means unique to the region.
“A culture of silence persists, and any discussion of it is relatively new. Social and cultural norms which discourage open discussion of sexuality as a whole, inhibit the capacity of society to address issues of sexual violence objectively. As part of the culture of sweeping sexual violence under the carpet, women consistently bear the burden and are blamed, while men are typically excused from social or cultural condemnation”, as explored in “It’s Always Her Fault” – a report by SIHA Network.
The current response to sexual violence in conflict falls far short of an adequate response. The majority of women and girls survivors are unable to either access justice, or the social, medical and psychological services that they need to rebuild their lives. And as such, SIHA has continuously explores the root causes of sexual violence and the reasons why certain groups are targeted. By identifying drivers and patterns of violence, it seeks to suggest means of prevention and response. By identifying the gaps in response, it suggests means of improving the services and treatment available to survivors.
SIHA’s ongoing campaign, #RapeisACrime, addresses the issue of sexual violence in conflict by raising awareness and proposing necessary recommendations to combating this fundamental issue.
SIHA has been strengthening the capacity of community-based services and built country networks and that connects in-between the Horn of Africa sub-region, solidarity for advocacy and protection as well as effective response strategies. Our mandate and work in the region is to break the silence on violence against women and girls, especially in such a volatile setting. With the support of a grassroots-based SRHR coalition, we are strengthening the capacity of local CSOs in the Horn of Africa sub-region, in order to build regional solidarity for advocacy and protection against the violation of sexual and reproductive rights. The coalition has mobilized activists, vulnerable and marginalized women, men and girls to harness resources to challenge the root causes of sexual violence in their societies. So far, SIHA has enabled the creation of these networks in Wau in South Sudan, Khartoum and North Darfur in Sudan and South Central Zone of Somalia – where these services continue to be accessed by survivors of sexual violence in the region.
Along with this, we pledge ourselves to the social media conversation #EndRapeinWar, to support this survivor-centered approach that is being implemented across continents. It is imperative that rape in war is given its deserved voice, so that we as the SIHA Community can prevent a deafening silence on this issue.
Today, we remember the survivors of sexual violence in Sudan caught in the fangs of the fight against the revolution in the nation where the Rapid Support Forces / Janjaweed Militia continue to use the bodies of women, girls and men as sites of war – to rid a nation of democracy. Sexual violence is an ingrained weapon of war being used by all armed groups in the nation – to create a broken and disintegrated society.
Hence, SIHA makes the following recommendations to all governments within the Horn of Africa, with the support of the African Union mechanisms and the international community:
- Denounce the use of all forms of sexual violence against women and girls aimed at stripping their dignity and humanity, and subsequently penalize the perpetrators of this violence;
- Integrate a gender outlook in their policy decisions, legislation, development plans, programmes and activities and in all other spheres of life;
- Commit themselves to modifying the socio-cultural patterns of conduct of women and men through public awareness and communication strategies of Sexual Reproductive Health Rights, with a view to achieving the elimination of harmful cultural and traditional practices and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes, or on stereotyped roles for women and men;
- Legislate and put into effect laws to prohibit all forms of violence against women including rape whether the violence takes place in private or public spaces of the society;
- Embrace legislative, administrative, social and economic measures to ensure the prevention, punishment and eradication of all forms of violence against women in the Horn of Africa;
- Put in place effective mechanisms to support victims of sexual violence through basic services such as health services, legal and judicial support, emotional and psycho-social support;
 United Nations, ‘International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict 19 June’ <https://www.un.org/en/events/elimination-of-sexual-violence-in-conflict/index.shtml> accessed June 19 2019