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Statement attributable to Dr Luay Shabaneh, UNFPA Director for the Arab Region, on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict

Cairo, June 19, 2017 - In 2017, the United Nations Secretary-General reported that sexual violence continued to be used as a tactic of war in a number of conflict settings. Sexual violence has also been used as a tactic of terrorism by a range of violent extremist groups to suppress women’s rights and control their sexuality and reproduction.

The Arab region has unfortunately witnessed several flagrant situations of sexual violence in conflict, prompting UNFPA, to scale up its response in places like Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Yemen. UNFPA works with governments, local organizations and other humanitarian partners to provide medical care and social support for the survivors of sexual violence and to prevent further attacks.

In UNFPA-supported ‘safe spaces’ across the Arab region,  women and girls receive psychological and legal support, humanitarian assistance, reproductive health services, information and educational sessions and livelihood that help them overcome the trauma and reintegrate in their communities.

In Syria, UNFPA supports 21 Safe Spaces offering services to over 366,000 women and girls. In Yemen, we help run 4 safe spaces, and in Iraq, particularly since the start of the Mosul military activities, UNFPA has been running 21 safe spaces and will open four more in the coming month with services in reproductive health, empowerment and counseling.

Acts of sexual violence towards women and girls, but also towards men and boys, conducted during conflicts violate universal human rights and humanitarian law rules, and cause long term physical and psychological trauma.

Survivors of conflict-related sexual violence suffer intense stigma by society, particularly when perpetrators are not held accountable for the crimes they have committed. UNFPA strongly believes that perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence should be held legally accountable, partly as a way to deter others from engaging in similar attacks on dignity.