My Lords, rape and other forms of sexual violence have been used as weapons against women in conflicts all over the world. The militias in eastern Congo are violating women as a means of exerting control, humiliation and submission. The abuses in the region are said to account for the majority of the work carried out by international aid organisations. The level of brutality is alarming and leaves victims with physical and psychological wounds. There is a stigma attached to rape which results in many victims being ostracised from mainstream society. The majority of victims are therefore reluctant to report their abuse for fear of rejection by their communities.
Some of the most brutal sexual violence occurred in Srebrenica, which was the worst atrocity on European soil since the end of the Second World War. It is asorry state of affairs that so far only 30 people have been convicted for the 50,000 rapes committed during the Bosnian war.
There are also reports of rape being used as a weapon in Syria. In this regard, I would like to say that the Prophet Muhammad-peace be upon him-instructed his followers not to lay hands on women, children and elderly people in any form of warfare.
Ending sexual violence is central to conflict prevention and peace-building worldwide. It is important that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes are brought to justice. I am pleased that the Government have formed a UK team of 73 experts devoted to combating and preventing sexual violence in armed conflict. The experts will be able to be deployed overseas to gather evidence and testimony that can be used to support investigations and prosecutions.
I wholeheartedly support the plans to deploy UK experts to Libya, Bosnia, South Sudan and eastern Congo. I also support the Government’s decision to provide £1 million in funding to the office of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. The Government deserve praise for ensuring that victims of these abhorrent crimes will be given access to the support and justice that they deserve.