Ayate, 14, was pressed by her parents to marry a man she had never seen. Thanks to knowledge and encouragement she got from the Global Programme’s gender club in her school in Ethiopia, she had the courage to say no to her parents and continue her education.

Zonta International statement on International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict 2022

Zonta International joins the United Nations and the global community in recognizing the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence.

According to the UN, last year, there was a reliance on military rather than diplomatic and political means, which led to significant displacement and exposed civilians to increased levels of sexual violence.

"Rising inequality, increased militarization, reduced civic space and the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons also contributed, among other factors, to fueling widespread and systematic conflict-related sexual violence, even in the midst of a global pandemic," the UN explained.

According to the UN, female peacebuilders and human rights defenders were often targeted, including through sexual violence and harassment. Advocates and activists working to highlight the predicament and defend the rights of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence were also subjected to intimidation and reprisals.

The UN defines the term conflict-related sexual violence as "rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriage and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls or boys that is directly or indirectly linked to a conflict. The term also encompasses trafficking in persons when committed in situations of conflict for the purpose of sexual violence or exploitation."

"A staunch defender of women and advocate against gender-based violence, Zonta International recognizes the harm caused by conflict-related sexual violence," said Zonta International President Sharon Langenbeck. "In our pursuit of gender equality, we must address the root causes of gender-based violence and eliminate it."

As of 3 June, the Human Rights Monitoring Team of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had received reports of 124 alleged acts of conflict-related sexual across Ukraine, where Zonta has three clubs. The majority of the victims are women and girls.

"Too often have the needs of women and girls in conflict settings been side-lined and treated as an afterthought," Pamela Patten, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict, said while recalling her recent visit to Ukraine and outlining the elements of a Framework of Cooperation, which was signed last month.

According to the UN, the framework "addresses comprehensive service provision for survivors, including sexual and reproductive health services, medical and specialized mental health services, legal assistance, and livelihood support." It "also covers gender-responsive security sector reform, as well as prevention of conflict-related trafficking, amid rising displacement."

Ethiopia, one of the countries supported by the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage, which Zonta International has funded since 2018, has been embattled in a civil war since November 2020. According to a March 2022 report of the United Nations Secretary General, an investigation revealed incidents of sexual violence against women and girls in Ethiopia for their perceived, alleged or actual association with parties to the conflict.

The African country is also home to 15 million child brides. The Global Programme's 2020 Country Profiles indicates that 152,782 adolescent girls were reached through life-skills training, including comprehensive sexuality education, with information and skills on sexual and reproductive health, and legal and psychosocial services.

Zonta International is committed to ending gender-based violence. We encourage our members to continue their advocacy work and to join us in advocating to end gender-based violence by participating in the Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women campaign from 25 November through 10 December. To help support our programs such as the Ending Child Marriage project, donate to the Zonta Foundation for Women.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence, Zonta International released a statement on women's rights in armed conflicts and post-conflict settings, in which we call on our members to join forces with like-minded regional women's groups to realize gender-inclusive societies, raise awareness of women's rights in conflict and post-conflict settings, support movements to create a collective memory of the experiences of survivors, witnesses and perpetrators, and more.

19 JUNE 2022