By Rich Daly
Thursday, July 9, 2009
In response to the heavy toll of sexual violence in war-torn regions, a gathering of international leaders on Wednesday pressed U.N. member states for more concrete steps to aid victims and hold perpetrators accountable.
WASHINGTON (WOMENSENEWS)--Each month the 1,100 women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are raped--on average.
The scale of sexual violence in the strife-torn nation has made the eastern region of the Congo exhibit A in the growing push by female leaders to organize a worldwide response to what many see as an expanding "tool of war."
"What is happening in the DRC is different in its scale and scope than anything we have ever seen," Melanne Verveer, U.S. ambassador-at-large for Global Women's Issues, said Wednesday in Washington, D.C. She spoke at a forum on United Nation's efforts throughout the world to stop such crimes.
The forum was held at the Aspen Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit foundation.
Speakers at the event included representatives from the U.S. State Department, the European Commission and the United Nations.
The call for attention and action on the issue of sexual violence is driven by a growing understanding that rape is no longer simply a byproduct of war but, rather, is used in many places as a deliberate tactic designed to demoralize and intimidate communities.
The use of sexual assualt--often accompanied by disfigurement to mark the victim-- permanently damages the victims' social acceptance. Spouses and relatives often reject them afterward, which contributes to the destruction of entire families and communities.
Sexual violence in conflict zones has become so pervasisve that its threat to individual victims as well as entire communities and nations and requires an international response, said Margot Wallström, vice president of the European Com