Baby Gladys, named after the UN Police Officer, who helped her mother when she became pregnant after being raped at 13. Bangui, Central African Republic. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
“Children conceived through wartime rape often struggle with issues of identity and belonging for decades after the guns have fallen silent. Their mothers may be marginalized and shunned by their own families and communities. On the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, we amplify the voices of these forgotten victims of war, who suffer stigma, shame and exclusion in societies polarized by armed conflict.”— UN Secretary-General, António Guterres
2018 Theme: “The Plight and Rights of Children Born of War”
The effects of conflict-related sexual violence echo across generations, through trauma, stigma, poverty, poor health and unwanted pregnancy. The children whose existence emanates from that violence have been labelled “bad blood” or “children of the enemy”, and alienated from their mother’s social group. Children conceived through rape in wartime often struggle with issues of identity and belonging for decades after the end of war. They are rarely accepted by society, and unsafe abortion remains a leading cause of maternal mortality in conflict-affected settings.
The stigma associated with sexual violence can have life-long, and sometimes lethal, repercussions for both survivors and children conceived through rape. Socioeconomic reintegration support, aimed to alleviate stigma and mend the social fabric, should therefore infuse all post-conflict reconstruction and recovery efforts.
On this day, we strive to foster solidarity with survivors who endure multiple, intersecting stigmas in the wake of sexual violence, including the stigma of association with an armed or terrorist group, and of bearing children conceived through rape by the enemy. Often, these women and children are viewed as affiliates, rather than victims, of armed and violent extremist groups. These children may be left stateless, in a legal limbo, and susceptible to recruitment, radicalization, trafficking and exploitation, with wider implications for peace and security, as well as human rights. However, the issue of children born of war has been missing from both the international human rights framework and from peace and security discourse, rendering them a voiceless category of victims.
Event at UN Headquarters
A panel discussion to commemorate the third annual International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict will be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York on Tuesday, 19 June 2018, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. in Conference Room 2.
The event will include reflections on how the lessons of history can be applied to contemporary conflict and post-conflict societies, in which women and children released from armed and violent extremist groups struggle to reintegrate into their families and communities. It will consider strategies such as enlisting religious and traditional leaders to help change harmful social norms and dispel the perception that these children and their mothers were complicit in the crimes committed by their captors. Download the invitation.
Follow the conversation on social media #EndRapeinWar.
A Rohingya woman crosses the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh near the village of Anzuman Para in Palong Khali. UNHCR/Roger Arnold
“Sameera” (not her real name) is among the Rohingya refugees now sheltering in the crowded camps of the Cox’s Bazar region in south-eastern Bangladesh. The 17-year-old had only been married for a couple of months when her husband was killed. She was raped just days after his death, when three soldiers showed up at her door, together with two other Rohingya girls, who were also raped. “As I will give birth to the baby, he or she will be mine, no matter who the father is,” she told the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Since August, more than 16,000 babies have been born in the refugee camps, according to the UN agency. It is difficult to determine exactly how many were conceived through rape, said Pramila Patten, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Read more in the feature story “UN mobilizes in Rohingya camps to support babies born of rape; young mothers face stigma”