SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN CONFLICT AND SEX TOURISM MUST BE OPPOSED

May 24, 2013

The unwelcome truth that civilized people don’t want to hear is that the human race is not so civilized after all. Hundreds of thousands of wealthy males travel from rich to poor countries every year to sexually exploit and abuse children and women in a global phenomenon known as sex-tourism. Sexual violence is common and tragically and sinfully ignored. Hundreds of thousands of women and children are trafficked and in Europe, 27,600 are victims of forced labor.

There is some light in this dark matter of indifference and apathy towards the victims. The declaration by the Group of Eight (G8) leading nations says new actions to prevent and stop the sexual violence against women and children and men in areas of conflict around the world. It will be adopted formally in June 2013 at the meeting of the G8 in Northern Ireland.

Rape and sexual slavery have become weapons of war. It is unleashed intentionally by combatants to punish their perceived enemies by raping the women and children and subjugating them to their power. Sexual violence is a way to assert their dominance and victory over their perceived enemies. The warring groups also have an interest in laying claims to territory by making hundreds of women in an area pregnant, many of whom will give birth to the children. The invading soldiers who raped and fathered the children can lay claim to a right of occupancy and domicile over the ethnic population and the land they live in. These are war crimes and too little, too late, has been done to stop them. The countries where it is widespread and most prevalent today are Syria, Bosnia, Libya, Sudan, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

Women refugees who manage to flee from conflict-torn regions tell of the brutal violence that they endured and that of their children and neighbors. This is the most serious crime and injustice and violation of the dignity and most sacred rights of the person. When young children are victims, it is the most heinous crime imaginable.

An international protocol is being formed to authorize the investigation of the crimes and the collection of evidence and the support and protection of the victims. In any peace treaty, amnesty for such sexual crimes will not be allowed. Investigative teams of police and medical personnel will be trained and sent to the war torn region for this purpose and education and awareness building will be part of this.

The international community is finally ready to act for forcibly recognizing the enormity of the situation. The Catholic Church and their agencies and local governments must act to curb the sexual exploitation of women and children in their communities and eliminate it. Sex tourism is another form of violence against women and children.

We have to get priorities correct and speak out and take action to end the trafficking and sex slavery of the women and children.

Columban Fr. Shay Cullen lives and works in the Philippines.