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UK leads global action to tackle sexual violence in conflict

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on Monday (Nov 28) hosted an international conference in London to strengthen urgent action against the use of sexual violence in conflict.

Representatives from 70 countries attended the conference to drive forward urgent action to tackle the scourge of sexual violence in conflict.

Bangladesh was represented by Ms. Fazilatun Nessa Indira, Minister of State for Women and Children Affairs Ministry, Md Hasanuzzaman Kallol, Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs and Saida Muna Tasneem, Bangladesh High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

The wider Bangladesh delegation is drawn from the fields of peacekeeping, activism, law, academia and the arts, reads a press statement issued by the British High Commission in Dhaka.

New evidence has shown that an estimated 20 to 30 per cent of women and girls in conflict-affected settings experience sexual violence.

The two-day conference in London on November 28-29 will put survivors of this abhorrent crime at the centre of the global response.

Nadia Murad and Dr Denis Mukwege – who won a joint Nobel Peace Prize for their work to combat sexual violence – will be in attendance alongside the Countess of Wessex and International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan.

The Bangladesh delegation also includes human rights activists Shireen Huq and Rani Yan Yan; lawyers Raziya Sultana and Sara Hussain; academic Dr. Bina D’Costa; and artist Leesa Gazi.
International survivors, government ministers and representatives of NGOs are also at the conference to share what they have learned and agree a united response to prevent atrocities from taking place in future.

Opening the conference, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “The very threat of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war, or as part of its aftermath, should bring immediate international condemnation, and swift action to deter those attacks before they occur.

“Today, we stand in solidarity with survivors, determined to bring justice.

And today I want to send an unequivocal message to those who order, allow or perpetrate sexual violence against women and girls: it isn’t combat; it isn’t strength; it is cowardice. We will not rest in our efforts to protect those potential victims, and prosecute the perpetrators.”

This week’s conference marks 10 years of the UK Government’s landmark Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI). The UK has been at the vanguard of efforts to combat conflict-related sexual violence for the past decade, ever since former Foreign Secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie jointly launched PSVI in 2012. Since then, the UK has supported nearly 100 projects across 29 countries – from safe shelters in Bosnia, to judicial support in Iraq and Colombia, and training for peacekeepers in East Africa.

The current situation in Ukraine, as well as recent events in Afghanistan and Ethiopia, demonstrate that work to combat conflict-related sexual violence is still as important as ever.

According to the statistic that an estimated 20 to 30 per cent of women and girls in conflict-affected settings experience sexual violence is from the new What Works to Prevent Conflict Related Sexual Violence report which can be found here.