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Sexual violence in conflict increased by 50% in 2023, says UN

South-Sudanese who fled fighting in Sudan gather in Malakal town, which is hosting thousands who returned, in Upper Nile state, South Sudan. 08/05/2023   -  
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Sam Mednick/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

United Nations

The UN's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict presented the annual report to the Security Council on Tuesday.

During the UNSC's meeting on women and peace and security, Pramila Patten reported that wartime sexual violence had increased by 50% in 2023 compared to the previous year.

Chronically underreported crime

The UN verified 3,688 cases of rape and other sexual violence committed in war in 2023. 

95% of these cases involved women and girls, while 5% were recorded against men and boys. 

Children accounted for 32%, with the vast majority - 98% - being girls.

In her briefing, Patten said that the report could only reflect the cases the UN was able to verify.

"While the report conveys the severity and brutality of UN-sourced and verified incidents, it does not purport to reflect the global scale or prevalence of this chronically underreported, historically hidden crime," Patten said. 

"We know that for every survivor who comes forward, many others are silenced by social pressures, stigma, insecurity, the paucity of services, and the limited prospects for justice."

Sudan war

Also addressing the UNSC on Tuesday, the President and founder of Darfur Women Action Group also spoke about the war in Sudan's impact on levels sexual violence.

“Rape and other forms of gender-based violence are a defining feature of the current war in Sudan,” Niemat Ahmadi said.

Ahmadi, who founded her organisation in 2009 to empower survivors of the conflict in Darfur, urged the Security Council to hold perpetrators of sexual violence to account. 

“This Council must not remain silent,” she said.

Funding request

The Special Representative urged the UNSC for increased funding. 

Patten also said that there needs to more focus on aligning conflict-related sexual violence and arms-control agendas. 

“Across time and space, we see that the availability of weapons directly facilitates these attacks,” Ms. Patten said.

She highlighted the “unprecedented level of lethal violence” to silence survivors of sexual assault, in places like DR Congo and Myanmar.

“We cannot condemn the perpetrators of sexual violence in our speeches while continuing to fund and arm them through our supply chains," she said.

The 15th annual report on sexual violence in conflict covers 21 situations of concern, including Israel and Gaza, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.