AN EXHIBITION FEATURING PHOTOGRAPHS BY LYNSEY ADDARIO, MARCUS BLEASDALE, RON HAVIV, AND JAMES NACHTWEY
WOMEN in GLOBAL CONFLICT
Violence against women occurs in every country, every culture, to women young and old, rich and poor. In the words of Sarah, a rape survivor from Sierra Leone: “That man had the gun and he had the power. I just wanted to survive.” Her words speak volumes about the reality of war for women.
Sexual violence soars in times of armed conflict. Women as old as grandmothers and as young as toddlers have suffered violent sexual abuse by military and rebel forces. As many as 500,000 women were raped in Rwanda; up to 50,000 in Bosnia and 64,000 in Sierra Leone. The list goes on: Darfur, Timor-Leste, Haiti, and the DRC.
Sexual violence is a cruel form of discrimination against women. At least one out of every three women in the world is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime; one in four is abused during pregnancy. The consequences, which can last a lifetime, may be as devastating as HIV/AIDS, suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, unwanted pregnancies, or fistula. In times of crisis, a lack of access to healthcare only heightens women’s vulnerability.
Sexual violence is not inevitable. Cultures can be transformed by the men and women who create and live within them day by day. Effective development programs are sensitive to culture and how deep-rooted attitudes can change.
The United Nations urges governments to take responsibility for their obligations and to respect
international agreements and treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women, the Geneva Conventions, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and UN Security Council Reso-lutions 1325 and 1820. It is the right of every human being to live free of violence and discrimination.
Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA
Obaid is the Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, the world’s largest multilateral source of population assistance.