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Think Tank Urges Action on Ukraine’s Sexual Violence Crisis

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The world must heed the lessons from the aftermath of the Bosnian war to prevent Ukrainian victims of sexual violence and conflict-related atrocities from enduring decades of trauma.

A new report by the New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy, a US-based think tank, sheds light on mounting evidence of Russian troops employing rape and sexual violence as tools of terror in Ukraine.

This disturbing pattern of abuse draws parallels with the systematic use of rape by the Bosnian Serb army during the early 1990s Bosnian war, where justice has been elusive for survivors. The report, set to be discussed in the UK Parliament, emphasizes the urgent need to prioritize victims in Ukraine, offering them support, justice, and hope.

 

Learning from Bosnia’s Painful Legacy:

One of the key takeaways from the Bosnian experience is the critical importance of involving survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in peace negotiations. The Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the Bosnian war in 1995, did not include women or survivors of such violence. Consequently, rather than achieving a lasting peace, the accords merely froze the conflict. To ensure a different outcome in Ukraine, it is crucial to include all survivors, regardless of gender, in peace processes.

 

Understanding the Broad Impact:

Sexual violence during conflict affects not only women and girls but also men, boys, and people with diverse gender identities. Men who were victims of conflict-related sexual violence in Bosnia are only now coming forward, having endured decades without the support they needed. Similarly, in Ukraine, the stigma surrounding male survivors must be dismantled to provide them with the necessary assistance. Additionally, the report highlights the often-forgotten children born of wartime rape, known as the “Invisible Children.” These individuals face lifelong challenges and require recognition and support.

 

Prosecuting Perpetrators:

The report underscores the importance of being prepared to prosecute perpetrators on behalf of Ukraine. This can be done under the UN’s Genocide Convention or through national courts using the principle of universal jurisdiction. A recent case involving the transfer of a Bosnian Serb soldier charged with murder and rape from Bosnia to Montenegro demonstrates the effectiveness of this mechanism. Moreover, the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and initiated an investigation into alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine. Several countries have launched their own investigations into these alleged atrocities.

 

Prioritizing Victim Support:

While legal proceedings may be costly and protracted, immediate assistance must be provided to survivors. This includes psychological and social support, free healthcare, and free legal aid. Survivors should not have to wait for justice while struggling to meet basic needs, such as caring for their families and paying bills. It is imperative to offer comprehensive support to survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, ensuring they receive justice, accountability, and the necessary resources to rebuild their lives.

 

Conclusion:

To prevent Ukrainian victims of sexual violence from enduring a fate similar to that of Bosnian survivors, the international community must act swiftly and decisively. This entails including survivors in peace processes, recognizing the broad impact of sexual violence, prosecuting perpetrators, and prioritizing comprehensive support for survivors. By learning from the past, we can work towards a more just and compassionate future for all those affected by conflict-related sexual violence in Ukraine.

Abu Bakr Alvi
Abu Bakr Alvi
Mr. Abu Bakr Alvi, Senior Journalist Based in Faisalabad

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