Tackling sexual violence head on

By Caroline Nyamayemombe, Gender/ Gender Based Violence Specialist for UNFPA in South Sudan.

The consequences of sexual violence at the individual, family and community level means the loss to that community – socially and economically. Sexual violence against women and girls robs them of an opportunity to choose when and with whom to have sex and should one conceive as a result of the rape they have also lost control over the decision on child bearing. In some African countries we know that sexual violence takes place against a backdrop of early and forced marriage. For example, in South Sudan a 15-year-old girl has a greater chance of dying in childbirth than of finishing school. Ending sexual violence in countries like South Sudan would contribute to a huge reduction in maternal mortality.

We know that when girls stay longer in school they have a greater chance of controlling their fertility which means they have more chance of taking up opportunities in public life. Smaller families lead to improved child survival and children’s performance. On the other hand tackling gender inequality leads to higher rates of economic growth. Households where women have greater say tend to allocate a greater share of household resources to education and health. This helps to build the human capital of communities.

Using a ‘human rights based’ approach means people are not considered passive recipients of goods, services or commodities. Consequently, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for the equal participation of women in peace negotiations and peace building. Sexual violence undermines the dignity and status of victims, constrains development, generates and exacerbates instability and means peace becomes more elusive. Given the growing and changing global population there is a need to harness and strengthen the individual resourcefulness, creativity and resilience to reduce poverty and promote peace.

The empowerment of women, adolescents and young people to exercise their reproductive rights; universal access to SRH services, within a framework of human rights and gender equality are at the core of sustainable development. It is thus imperative that we invest in sexual and reproductive health beyond 2015.