Women in Conflict Areas Face Sexual Violence on ‘Massive Scale,’ At Risk for HIV, UNFPA Director Tells Security Council
Sexual violence against women is happening "on a massive scale" during wars and in countries emerging from conflict, putting women at risk of contracting HIV, and the international response is "completely inadequate," UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid on Thursday told the U.N. Security Council, the AP/Tallahassee Democrat reports. The open council meeting focused on the implementation of a resolution the council adopted four years ago committing governments to protect women from the abuses of war. Obaid, along with more than 50 other speakers, criticized world leaders for adopting standards and guidelines but taking little action to implement them, according to the AP/Democrat. "It is truly sad, and terribly angering, to see the tremendous needs. But it is even more shocking to witness the response so far, which remains completely inadequate," Obaid said, adding, "[M]ost women in conflict and post-conflict situations continue to experience little peace and little security." The speakers also discussed rape as a weapon of war and said that the Security Council must "protect women's rights and ensure women's access to justice," according to the AP/Democrat. "[I]n many wars and conflicts, rape has been used as a way of humiliating the men of the other side, infecting women with HIV/AIDS, forcing them into sexual slavery and destroying women's ability to revitalize their communities," Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of the U.N. Development Fund for Women, said. Obaid said that 67% of the women in Rwanda who were raped during the 1994 genocide contracted HIV and are now "dying slow painful deaths from AIDS" and need antiretroviral drug treatment, according to the AP/Democrat (Lederer, AP/Tallahassee Democrat, 10/29).
Sudan Faces HIV/AIDS Spread From Refugees
Southern Sudan faces the continued spread of HIV/AIDS as refugees return from countries with high HIV prevalence, UNFPA warned in a recent report, IRIN/Reuters AlertNet reports. The area likely will see an influx of HIV-positive refugees returning from countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Chad, as well as the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where widespread sexual violence has increased the country's HIV prevalence. The report says that while most people are aware of the disease, not everyone has access to information on HIV/AIDS prevention. Paul Spiegel, director of HIV/AIDS programs for the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees confirmed the potential risk of the further spread of HIV but warned against "jump[ing] to conclusions" about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among returning refugees, according to IRIN/Reuters AlertNet. UNICEF adviser on HIV/AIDS for Eastern and Southern Africa David Alnwick said that the situation is a "disaster waiting to happen," and unless serious action is taken, HIV prevalence "might go up considerably" (IRIN/Reuters AlertNet, 10/28).