UNITAR and the Permanent Missions of Libya and Italy raised awareness of sexual violence in conflict
23 September, New York, USA - The event on the Necessary Truth informed participants on a ground breaking Libyan legislation which equates victims of sexual violence to victims of war providing for social, economic, educational and medical assistance in a perspective of healing – promoting trust, dignity and a sense of justice. The bill, adopted by Prime Minister Zeidan’s Cabinet and soon to be ratified by the Libyan General National Congress, is poised to open innovative paths in addressing rape and sexual violence in Muslim societies redefining the concepts of honor, truth, dignity and justice.
The event the Necessary Truth brought together (among others) H.E. Mr. Salah El Margani, the Minister of Justice of Libya; H.E. Ibrahim Omar Dabbashi, the Permanent Representative of Libya to the United Nations; Ms. Emilia Gatto, the First Counselor of the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations; Ms. Haja Zainab Hawa Bangura, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict; Madame Leymah Roberta Gbowee, the Nobel Peace Laureate of 2011. The workshop was supported by the Observatory on Gender in Crisis in Libya and the president of the Ara Pacis Initiative, Ms. Maria Nicoletta Gaida.
During conflict, sexual violence has unfortunately been occurring more frequently as a strategy for combat and destruction. In some respects it is worse than use of weapons, as the damaging affect is pervasive and enduring not only for the women and men who have been abused, but also because of the lingering affects in the society. Sexual violence bears a stigma for those who suffer from it; it sticks with the victims for several generations. To fight against this situation, measurements have to be taken, which allow for legislation to punish these acts as war crimes. “Truth about the past is important for justice in the future, and without reconciliation in the society, there will be no enduring peace.”
Referring to the report of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflicts, H.E. Ambassador Ibrahim Omar Dabbashiillustrated that both men and women are subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence in Libya. In contrast to the fact that the Libyan government has not initiated new legislations or programmes for the survivors of these atrocities, H.E. Dabbashi stated the importance of this event to raise awareness and for the Draft Legislation which is currently put before the General National Congress for adoption. Nobel Peace Laureate, Leymah Roberta Gbowee underlined the importance of testimony of sexual violence and the importance fostering public dialog. She also stressed the fact that not only forces within the country should pressure for an adoption of the law but also international initiatives and organizations should speak up and raise awareness for the importance of the adaption of that legislation. Parliamentarian Bergamini agreed with this, and further pointed out that Italian Congress has a passed resolution of sexual violence as a crime of war. The Minister of Justice in Libya agreed that raising awareness within the population and insisting on a public dialog is an essential part of starting to address the issue and may help to empower the victims: “What we are asking for is much more than a law; we are asking for goodwill and good force, that we get together and exercise as much pressure as we can.” If Libya is to prosper, “it needs to deal with the deep psychological pain of the victims of the past.”