As a woman who has worked for the United Nations in emergency and humanitarian operations, I am deeply shaken over what is occurring in the protracted conflict in Tigray, in northern Ethiopia, where reports of human suffering, including growing allegations of grievous gender-based violence, keep increasing. These actions are cruel and ruthless, and they will scar generations of people for life.
That is why my colleagues and I at the Global Women Leaders Voices for Change and Inclusion (GWL Voices) are issuing a statement to call immediate attention to the Tigray conflict to see that it ends now.
Women and girls in Tigray are enduring immense violence, including sexual abuse and other atrocities. The Tigrayans need critical humanitarian assistance. And the use of rape in war requires urgent investigation as well as preventive and mitigating action and support to victims.
Our statement, signed by 38 prominent international leaders, requests the UN Security Council to act urgently to uphold the principles enshrined in Resolution 1325, which affirms the crucial role of women in preventing and resolving conflicts and in peace-building as well as the need to fully implement international humanitarian and human-rights law to protect the rights of women and girls during and after conflicts.
Indeed, we call on all parties to the conflict to take every measure to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, in particular rape and all other forms of sexual abuse.
We also recall the more than 10 commitments embedded in Resolution 1325 that address the protection of women and girls during conflict and ask that they be carried out immediately. Any and all instances of rape need to be sanctioned in the strongest form.
A Security Council pronouncement through a resolution or a presidential statement on Tigray has yet to appear since the conflict began late last year. That is why GWL Voices is echoing the alarms that have been raised by many humanitarian organizations and individuals. That includes a statement by the special representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, as well as a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia to the Security Council by Mark Lowcock, the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
Women are not only being gang-raped in Tigray, but they cannot access essential medical care after they have been assaulted. One expert said that among other intentions, the attackers want to infect women with HIV.
We cannot allow these horrendous acts to continue and not respond accordingly. We already know the brutal numbers that show what is going on in Tigray. The women and girls there need the Security Council to intervene now by acting on the commitments embedded in Resolution 1325 that were established to protect women and girls during conflict and by sanctioning any and all instances of rape in the strongest form. This needs to be done now. Tigray can’t wait!