Archbishop denounces sexual violence in war

Security Council members vote during a session on April 25 2013  Credit UN Photo JC McIlwaine CNA US Catholic News 4 25 13 Security Council members vote during a session on April 25, 2013. | UN Photo/JC McIlwaine.

The Holy See's apostolic nuncio to the United Nations has called for more action to prevent "heinous acts" of sexual violence in war and other forms of conflict.

"This violent domination of a human being constitutes an egregious form of degradation of their dignity, but also of the aggressor, who, in so doing, disfigures himself as a human person," Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt said in New York City April 17.

"Such heinous crimes are yet another consequence of the destructive power of war and thus all states and the international community must do their utmost to stop these barbarous acts that have been properly labeled as an outrage to the conscience of mankind."

The archbishop spoke during the U.N. Security Council's open debate on women, peace and security.

He said it is "frustrating and saddening" to read the U.N. Secretary-General's report on sexual violence in conflict. The archbishop denounced rape, forced sterilization, sex-related abduction and sexual slavery as "egregious acts of violence against women," acknowledging that men and boys are also sometimes victims.

While acknowledging there are many underlying reasons for sexual violence, Archbishop Chullikatt called it "disappointing" that the report did not highlight attacks on victims based on their religious beliefs, saying such attacks are persistent in "nearly every region of the world."

Resolving crises through peaceful means would help prevent sexual violence in times of conflict, he suggested, adding that greater discipline among armed forces and awareness campaigns respectful of women would also help in prevention efforts.

The archbishop urged the adoption and implementation of plans and legislation to protect sexual violence victims and to hold perpetrators accountable.

Stressing that it is "essential" for victims to "be afforded every assistance," he lamented that victims of sexual assault are sometimes ostracized or forced to live with their aggressors as wives, a practice he called "particularly disturbing."

Archbishop Chullikatt also criticized the U.N.'s endorsement of abortion for pregnant rape victims, promoted in a recent report as "access to safe pregnancy termination services."

"Here, concealed by a veil of words, lies the stark reality of the suppression of human life, the death of the innocent unborn child – which only visits further violence on a woman already in difficulty," he said.

Instead, he explained, women who are pregnant as a result of rape should be offered "care, support, education and assistance" to meet their material, social and spiritual needs before and after the pregnancy, including adoption assistance.

The archbishop affirmed that women have an important role to play in preventing violence.

He commended the international community's efforts to increase women's roles in making decisions about conflict prevention and resolution.

The Holy See's delegation to the U.N. believes there is "ample room" for greater involvement of women in preventing war and in post-war reconciliation and reconstruction, Archbishop Chullikatt said.

"Women can and should play greater roles as allies of peace," he emphasized.

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