The United Nations General Assembly has unanimously voted to pass a standalone resolution recognising rape in peacetime, and condemning all forms of sexual and gender-based violence.
The resolution passed on Friday was co-sponsored by 84 countries and led by Sierra Leone. It urges all countries to take effective measures in providing victims and survivors access to justice, reparations and assistance.
Sierra Leone’s foreign minister, David Francis, who introduced the resolution, stressed the importance of strengthening the international response to support victims and survivors, noting that 35 per cent of women worldwide are survivors or sexual assault, and more than one third of women affected by sexual violence have contemplated suicide.
The resolution, titled ‘International cooperation for access to justice, remedies and assistance for survivors of sexual violence’, was adopted by consensus without any modifications after votes were held on four amendments attempting to water down its language; the most contentious issues in the text being reproductive rights, reparations, recognizing international discrimiination and recounting domestic violence.
However, in the end, all four amendments were defeated by more than 2-1 margin, and the historic measures were still unanimously adopted.
The first of its kind worldwide survivor bill of rights stemmed from the hard work of Rise, a non-profit organisation that fights for the rights of sexual violence survivors worldwide.
Amanda Ngoc Nguyen, Founder of Rise, and a survivor of rape herself, had been leading the movement for the past 6 years. Nguyen celebrated the win over a series of emotional posts on her social media.
Nguyen took to her Instagram, stating that: “Over the past 6 years, we were told over and over again that rape survivors in peacetime has no place on the world state. That a UN resolution was not possible. That our rights, rapes and stories should be swept under the rug.
“Silence is how rights die. That was the purpose of this resolution. To make each country step up and reckon with the issue. Demand that the world’s most powerful must speak about our rapes instead of sweeping it under the rug. Demand that governments must give access to justice for survivors.”
She continued: “After decades of victim blaming, institutional denial, silencing taboo, turning away at honour killing of rape survivors, each government was forced to have an on-the-record point of view about this resolution. In the end 84 countries around the world cosponsored this landmark UN resolution. That’s nearly half the world. Many piled on last minute when they knew it was the right thing to do. In the end it was adopted unanimously by the world.”