In 2013, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) decided to expand and heighten its focus on specifically responding to the problem of sexual violence. The objective of the programme is: ‘In armed conflicts and other situations of violence, people are protected against sexual violence. The needs of those affected are holistically and effectively met’. Sexual violence in conflict areas has long been widespread, with grave and devastating consequences for victims and their communities. It may be used as an act of reprisal and to create fear, targeting both the individual and the entire community. Persons deprived of their freedom in relation to armed conflicts and other situations of violence are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. Sexual violence is specifically prohibited by treaty and customary IHL applicable to international and non-international armed conflicts and by international human rights law. Sexual violence has a far-reaching impact. Many victims report struggling with physical, psychological, social and spiritual harms. Sexual violence also deeply affects the family and close relatives of the victim. The Netherlands Red Cross contributes to projects that are being implemented by the ICRC in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Colombia: In Colombia, armed confrontations continue to take place between government forces and various armed groups, with the armed groups also fighting among themselves. People in both rural and urban areas face the risk of sexual violence. The DRC remains stricken by armed conflict, particularly in North and South Kivu provinces. Many people have to endure sexual violence. South Sudan continues to be plagued by insecurity. Despite ceasefire agreements, clashes occur in relation to the armed conflict that erupted between two factions of South Sudan’s armed forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Sexual violations are allegedly perpetrated during deliberate attacks against civilians or when they are abducted.
The Red Cross strives to respond to the suffering and needs of the women, men, girls and boys affected by sexual violence and to address both the causes and effects of such acts. These activities encompass providing victims with assistance, such as medical, psychological and social care and other forms of appropriate support, protecting all those vulnerable to violations, and raising awareness so as to prevent further violence. In short, the Red Cross aims to address the whole cycle, deliver a continuum of care, aiming at the prevention of sexual violence, addressing protection and risk reduction, providing medical care and psychological support, and finally assisting survivors to rebuild their lives.
Women, men, girls and boys may all become victims of sexual violence, with displaced persons and people deprived of their freedom being among those particularly vulnerable. The programme targets victims and their communities. This includes confidential dialogue with the authorities or weapon bearers.