The Foreign Secretary William Hague has unveiled a £1 million pledge to help stop sexual violence against women in war zones, where thousands of women and girls are raped every day.
“We are determined to raise international awareness of these issues,” Hague told journalists shortly after a meeting on the topic on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
A team of psychological experts from Britain was now ready to be deployed to areas where they are needed, Hague said, adding the issue would also be a major theme of his country’s presidency of the G8 next year.
“It’s now time to really build momentum on this issue,” he added.
UN Special Representative Zainab Bangura said: “We believe it is the primary and moral responsibility of every member state to protect its citizens, especially the most vulnerable.”
The aim was “to send a clear message” to those using rape as a weapon “that there is no hiding place. That wherever you go, we will go after you,” she added.
Michelle Bachelet, the UN director for the empowerment of women, said women in conflict zones were “disproportionately affected by sexual and gender-based violence, forced displacement,” and the destruction of civilian infrastructure.
Rape has been particularly prevalent in war-torn countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“Thousands of women are raped every day,” Bachelet, a former president of Chile, told journalists after the meeting.
“We believe there should be access to justice for women,” she said, adding there were plans to develop a rapid response justice team.
“We need long-term strategies to ensure their voices are heard… and give them the possibilities of reparations or redress so they can recover their lives.”