Skip to main content

Sexual violence against women

Published on November 14, 2013
Speech by the French Ambassador to the UK, on the protection of women and girls

London, 13 November 2013


Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to begin by quoting Dr Mukwege: “Rape has proven to be a cheap weapon, and a tragically effective one.”

Sexual violence is a weapon of war. It seeks to destroy individuals, families and communities. It’s a crime against humanity.

France is determined to act, together with all its partners, on every front: raising awareness among the international community, ending impunity and helping the victims.

- Raising awareness. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, France supports the work being done to systematically draw the international community’s attention to violence against women and girls. Resolution 2122, adopted last month by the Security Council, is a major step in strengthening the role of women in preventing conflicts and consolidating peace. Ever since the year 2000 and Resolution 1325, France has been working constantly and actively for the adoption of the Security Council’s previous resolutions on women, peace and security and supports their effective implementation. We’re particularly mindful, when mandates for peacekeeping operations are renewed, to include protection mechanisms on the ground, through what are called women’s protection advisers. France supports and welcomes the work done by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

- Ending impunity. France will still campaign, and always do so, for the perpetrators of these crimes to be prosecuted and punished. Rape is not collateral damage. It’s not a lesser crime. It’s primarily up to governments to prosecute and punish. But when states are failing, the International Criminal Court can and must play its full role.

- Finally, helping the victims. We must of course continue our efforts to provide the victims with the medical treatment and psychological support they need. As part of its national action plan to implement the resolutions on women, peace and security, France has initiated cooperation programmes to combat violence against women in Africa and the Arab world, in partnership with UN Women, and programmes to integrate gender issues into the reform of security systems. For example, we’re providing financial support for Dr Mukwege’s hospital in Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In that country, more than €2 million has been devoted to supporting Congolese NGOs in this area since 2012. Since August 2012 we’ve also been financing the French NGO Gynécologie Sans Frontières, which has set up a maternity unit in the Syrian refugee camp of Za’atari in Jordan.

France’s First Lady, Mme Valérie Trierweiler, visited Panzi Hospital a few months ago. There she met four generations of women and girls from the same family, ranging from the grandmother to an 18-month-old baby – all raped. “It’s a crime against life; they’re trampling on humanity itself,” she said angrily at the ministerial meeting on sexual violence, in New York in September.

In the Central African Republic, since the coup d’état in March the violence has known no bounds. In its report on the CAR, published in October, Amnesty International stressed that the victims can’t afford the medical treatment they need, after suffering the most brutal attacks.

These women from the Central African Republic recount how they’re rejected by their fiancés or their husbands and also consequently lose economic support and protection. I ask you to watch the “Unreported World” report, which will be broadcast this Friday on Channel 4. The team there follows a midwife in the CAR which is often referred to as a “forgotten country”. Forgotten by many, no doubt, but certainly not by France – as was stressed repeatedly by President Hollande at the United Nations General Assembly and Laurent Fabius in Bangui last month. France won’t forget the CAR’s men, women and children, a people exhausted by months of extreme violence.

Thank you to Claus Sorensen, Director-General of ECHO, the European Community Humanitarian Office, for talking about the terrible situation in the CAR.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the G8, under the UK presidency, France wholeheartedly backed the initiative against sexual violence in conflict, which William Hague and Justine Greening personally promoted with passion. On 6 and 7 December, the French President will be hosting the Summit for Peace and Security in Africa. Twenty-nine heads of state and government have already confirmed they are taking part. The issue of women in conflict situations will be on the agenda, because the protection of women and girls is crucial to building lasting peace, and we must all go on making all-out efforts to achieve this.

Thank you./.

      top of the page