UN Women connects a global campaign – 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence – starting on 25 November till 10 December (Human Rights Day). In 2019, this campaign is themed “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape!” and it encourages to make actions visible with “Orange the World” motto. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” In public or private sphere, in times of war or peace, violence against women and girls are widespread and systematic human rights violations taking place in persistent manner and unbelievable proportions.
Women and girls are the most vulnerable to abuses and violence in the context of humanitarian crisis – natural disasters and armed conflicts. Women and girls are victims of violence, including sexual abuse and exploitation, at disproportionally higher rates in situations of armed conflict, post-conflict and displacement in comparison to men and boys and the consequences are disastrous. Therefore, immediate, appropriate and effective actions must be undertaken based on thorough assessment on the ground to ensure protection response and re-victimization. Moreover, victims who are willing to report abuses, to seek justice and reparation should be provided with an opportunity to do so in safe
environment without risk of retaliation and stigmatization.
Horrendous crimes committed in Syria are greatly impacting women and girls within the war of more than eight years. Large-scale abuse of women and girls were and are being committed by the governmental agents, security and military forces, government-allied militias, coalition military forces, the ISIL and other non-state armed groups. “Parties to the conflict resort to sexual violence as a tool to instil fear, humiliate and punish or, in the case of terrorist groups, as part of their enforced social order. While the immense suffering induced by these practices impacts Syrians from all backgrounds, women and girls have been disproportionally affected, victimised on multiple grounds, irrespective of perpetrator or geographical area” (“I lost my dignity”: Sexual and gender-based violence in the Syrian Arab Republic, A/HRC/37/CRP.3)
Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties calls for all parties immediately cease the perpetration of sexual and gender-based violence, arbitrary and unlawful detention of women. The Syrian government should ensure remedy to victims and their reintegration. The state as primary responsibility holder should ensure full compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Moreover, GCRL considers that the international community’s response through United Nations mechanisms to gender-based violence in context of humanitarian crisis needs to be further enhanced. The United Nations should improve coordination and information sharing among its agency to ensure streamlined and efficient actions. The international community should ensure more funding to combat violence against women and girls.