Lithuania's statement at the UN Security Council open debate "Women, Peace and Security: Sexual violence in conflict"
We thank the Uruguayan Presidency of the Security Council for convening the open debate on the issue that plagues and exacerbates many contemporary conflicts.
At the outset, we commend Ms. Zainab Bangura, for her hard work and dedication as SRSG on conflict-related sexual violence for the past years. We congratulate Ms. Pramila Patten with her recent appointment and wish her success.
I thank Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed and other briefers, Mr. Dieng and Ms. Jaf, for their critical contributions and testimonies. We welcome the comprehensive report of the UN Secretary-General and its recommendations.
Lithuania aligns itself with the statements delivered by the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security.
Almost a decade has passed since the Security Council recognized sexual violence as a tactic of war. Despite all efforts of the international community, conflict-related sexual violence remains an acute issue. It is getting more complex with ever increasing violent extremism and terrorism, displacement driven by conflict, mass migration and human trafficking.
Abduction and rape, forced marriage and pregnancy, enslavement and use of girls as suicide bombers - these are not isolated crimes but a tactic of terrorism, employed by State and non-State actors aimed at achieving strategic objectives, including financing and recruitment, displacement, destruction and persecution.
The only way to effectively address this scourge is a comprehensive and integrated approach which entails prevention, early warning, justice and accountability, participation of women in political processes, and their political, social and economic empowerment.
We all agree that the responsibility to protect civilian population from gender based and sexual violence in conflicts lie with the States. Having adequate judiciary and penal framework to this end is essential, as is making sure that national civilian and military justice systems fully meet international legal and human rights standards. Most conflict-affected countries, however, lack adequate national capacity and expertise to prevent, investigate and prosecute sexual violence.
In this regard, we value greatly the work of the United Nations Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict in providing assistance to governments by strengthening their capacity, including in the areas of criminal investigation and prosecution, military justice, legislative reform, protecting victims and witnesses and providing reparations for survivors.
We commend the partnership between the Justice Rapid Response initiative and the UN Women. Deployment of justice experts from their joint roster in 50 different missions, greatly contributes to ending impunity for perpetrators, and bridging the gap of international and national legal frameworks to deliver justice to victims.
Where actions at a national level are not yet possible, international justice mechanisms can play a critical role, including the International Criminal Court.
The Security Council's targeted sanctions are another tool that could be more widely used to deter sexual violence in conflicts and to seek accountability. Sexual and gender-based violence should be systematically applied as designation criteria when adopting or renewing targeted sanctions in situations of armed conflict.
Moreover, this Council should be more vocal and systematic in its condemnation of conflict-related sexual violence and demands for credible investigations for all allegations of sexual violence committed in conflict zones, - for government affiliated forces, armed groups or UN’s own peacekeepers.
On the protection side, increased numbers of women peacekeepers, deployment of women’s protection and gender advisers, as well as human rights and gender awareness training, have all proven successful and should be further expanded. At the national, regional and sub-regional levels, cooperation mechanisms should continue to actively promote effective responses to conflict-related sexual crimes, including through awareness campaigns, action plans and cooperation frameworks, capacity building, and shared good practices.
Care for and protection of survivors of sexual violence is another vital issue to address. Overcoming trauma and restoring their dignity are crucial aspects in stopping the vicious cycle of stigmatization and further abuse. Victims must have access to justice, accountability and redress mechanisms in order to assure their reintegration into respective societies.
In conclusion, we have to acknowledge that violence in conflict stems from violence during the times of peace. Gender inequalities, discriminatory cultural norms and patriarchal gender stereotypes often reinforce misogyny and crimes against women and girls.
Therefore, it is incumbent upon all Member States to redouble our efforts to implement SDG 5, in achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls to become actors rather than victims in their societies, which will contribute to breaking the cycles of violence.
Making a difference requires full integration and mainstreaming of gender perspective into the Council’s – and the whole United Nations’- work, with coherent, consistent and credible actions at all levels.
I thank you, Mr. President.