Mairead Maguire speaks at ” The Partnership For Change Conference” on Dignity and Empowerment.

Dear Friends,

I am very happy to be with you and would like to thank you for your kind invitation to address this Partnership for Change Conference. Ending rape and sexual violence is a huge challenge to us all, but it can be done when we join in Partnership and co-operation, and use a multi-faceted Approach to transforming a culture of rape and sexual violence into a culture of nonkilling, nonviolence and respect for life and human dignity.

In the Nobel Peace Laureates Charter for a world without violence, Chapter 13 states:

‘We have a right not to be killed and a responsibility not to kill each other’.

We could add alongside this, ‘women and girls, and men and boys, have a right not to be raped, or sexually assaulted, and to be treated with dignity, equity, and justice. I believe, one of the ways to end sexual violence is to break the silence around this Taboo subject by educating ourselves and others about Rape and Gender violence in conflict, and by working in partnership to end this crime against human life and dignity. Also by proclaiming ‘life’ as our primary identity putting it above all other identities will help build a new culture for humanity based on respect for life and the environment, and solving of conflicts without killing each other.

As we all know, every violent act has its violent consequence, so we know too that rape and sexual violence often has its roots in the savagery of militarism and war. In some countries, as in past history, rape and sexual violence (of mostly women and girls, but also men and boys) is a tool of war. It is used by the Military forces, militia and other armed groups, to subjugate, dominate and control people and as a way of terrorizing and destroying whole communities. I witnessed this myself some years ago when as part of a Nobel Peace Laureates’ delegation we visited the Thai/Burma border and in the Refuges camps heard many stories from Karen women refugees (many pregnant) who had been raped, often gang raped, by Burmese soldiers. In Burma, as in countries like Mexico, Honduras and Guatamala, militaries are the cause of direct, structural and cultural violence, often targetting women – particularly indigenous communities, as in the case of the genocide of Mayan women in Guatamala, and where to-day femicide, domestic violence, and sexism is exploding.

In January, 2012 a Nobel Womens Initiative delegation visited Mexico, Honduras And Guatamala, and they have just issued their Findings and Recommendations. In the words of Nobel Peace Laureate,Jody Williams,

‘The war on drugs and increased militarism in Mexico, Honduras and Guatamala, is becoming a war on Women’.

(In many South American countries we are increasingly hearing calls From the civil community for an end to militarism using a pretext of war on drugs).

The delegation found that in Mexico, Honduras and Guatamala, the police and Increasingly soldiers, sent out to cities and communities under the ‘drug war’ Not only failed to guarantee public safety but are also the perpetrators of many Crimes committed against women. Private Security firms hired by multi-nationals Companies are another unchecked source of violence and insecurity for women, particularly indigenous and rural women.

Rigoberta Menchu Tun, Nobel Peace Laureate, from Guatamala, said ‘Indigenous women are often at the frontlines of communities that are trying to peacefully express their opposition to large-scale projects that threaten the health and land of indigenous peoples’. The Delegation proposed many recommendations that in order to implement will take the concerted efforts of local and national Governments, civil societies, including Womens organizations and International Community. They also proposed Recommendations for the International Community, including denouncing the targeting of Human Rights Defenders, ear-marking a greater proportion of foreign Aid to womens’ organizations recognizing that a Community-based model will reduce A dangerous dependence on armed solution to security challenges.

We can all welcome the Report of the Secretary General (UN) of 13th January, 2012, on Conflict- Related sexual violence.(l) The report lists for the first time names of some of the military forces, militia and other armed groups that are suspected of being amongst the worst offenders. Countries named by the Sec. General, include Somalia,Guinea, Kenya,Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Libya, Burma, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Congo, Chad, but his report does not mention other countries where sexual violence has been perpetrated, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel/Occupied Territories,

And Haiti,where U.N. Peacekeeping forces faced allegations of sexual abuse and increasingly face calls from the people of Haiti, for the UN Forces to leave their country. The extent of the problem of sexual violence is brought home to us when the Sec. General of the UN tells us that one out of every 3 women (this means 3 Billion women) will experience violence in their lifetime. As a result of such an assault upon their Spirit and body,(as sexual violation is about the destruction of the interior of that person) they often lose their sense of dignity and self-confidence,so we must always remember to keep the survivors at the heart of all we do.

Supporting the survivors of sexual violence in their struggle to regain their dignity is a pre-requisite to empowering them to take control of their lives. This means addressing the needs of the survivors and helping the women reclaim their lives and take leadership in their own communities. Survivors when given support and offered opportunities can become empowered to work to end conflicts and gender violence in their communities. We have seen this in Liberia where women mobilized to end violence, and started a peace process. In order to help empower women they should be included in all peace processes, and constitute at least 50% of all official delegates to the peace process negotiations,. Resolution 1325 provides legal mechanism that women could use in advocating for their voices to be heard in political decision-making.

We also need to support as much as possible women in Afghanistan, Egypt and Somalia, to educate women about the Health dangers involved with violent Female Genital Mutiliation. 100 million girls and women live with Circumcision, which is carried out on young girls often by their mothers, and is a dangerous cultural (not religious) tradition with no benefits but horrific suffering and often deaths of children. .

As well as keeping Victims/survivors at the heart of our efforts, it is important we also focus on the Rapist/Perpetrator in order to help us get to the roots of this phenomena

and help end this victimization. Sexualized violence occurs in every country in the world but tragically it is often accepted by society, and excused with the attitude that sexual violence has and always will be with us, and it is ‘boys and men behaving badly’. This mindset must change as rape and sexual violence is a crime and must never be condoned, excused or supported by any society. The practise in some countries where young males rape girls and see this as a badge of honour or rite of passage to manhood, is criminal as it causes enormous suffering to the victims/survivors. However, increasingly Gov. are legislating against violence against women and the culture of’ blaming the victim’ is being changed and legislation is taking the place of impunity. Questions are being asked of the Perpetrator: what is his family Background, his community, influences upon him, etc., in order to have a more comprehensive understanding of the rapist and his background. The more we can understand the roots of this cult of violent macho masculinity which is cultivated by gangs and the culture of militarism and war and whose basic need is the control, and subjugation of females, and proving a false

sense of manhood, then we can begin to heal this world-wide disease. Rapes where use of guns, knives, and other objects have been used to penetrate, torture, and violate the female body and do not involve sex, take place in street gangs and war zones. Such brutality and inhumanity, challenges us to find ways to teach nonviolence at every level of society to bring about cultural change. Men can provide models and raise their sons to respect women and practice equality.

An International Campaign to stop Rape and Gender Violence in conflict, initiated by the Nobel Womens Initiative, will be launched in the near future and we look forward to working in co-operation and partnership with All those who have done and continue to do excellent work in ending rape andSexual violence in conflict.

Thank you for your work which gives hope and inspiration to us all.

Mairead Maguire