Today is the International Day to Eliminate Sexual Violence in Conflict — an opportunity for us to reflect upon what has been accomplished thus far and also remind us of the urgency to intensify our efforts in order to end sexual violence.

As reports emerged just this week that dozens of civilians have been raped at political protests in Sudan, it is clear that we must do more. One can draw a direct link between the groups perpetrating these acts of violence and the Janjaweed who have systematically used rape as a weapon to destroy entire communities in Darfur in recent years, seemingly unabated. Total impunity in Sudan has allowed this violence to continue. Yet where is the outcry? In cases of emergency the world has proved that mobilisabilition is possible. Hereby, we must call again for international community to take strong and immediate action against the use of sexual violence: how many more victims must we mourn before we draw a red line against rape as a weapon of war?

Despite a supposed end to the conflict in eastern DRC, the number of victims of sexual violence has not changed in recent years. On the contrary, Panzi Hospital has found that the incidence of sexual violence has not only continued, but there has also been an alarming increase in the number of minors. Mass rape continues, and the ongoing impunity for perpetrators coupled with toxic masculinities reinforced by years of war allow for the violence to persist – be it executed by civilians, militias or state agents.

While Panzi Hospital in DRC provides quality holistic care to survivors of sexual violence, survivors around the world simply do not have access to basic services needed to heal or reintegrate in society. From Yazidi survivors in the Middle East, to those in asylum centres in Europe, survivors lack access to the care they need and deserve. Now is the time to listen to them and to act accordingly. To do this, we must stand with survivors to amplify their voices by sharing their lived realities.

I hereby honour the members of SEMA (Swahili for “speak out”), the Global Network of Victims and Survivors to End Wartime Sexual Violence and with the thousands upon thousands of other survivors around the world who are calling for an end to sexual violence. Let us note the tremendous courage of these women to break the silence around sexual violence and claim their rights in order to prevent other generations of women and girls, but also men and boys, from becoming victims as well.

And while in the past year, we have seen the international community take action through Security Council Resolution 2467, which promotes a survivor-centred approach to combat conflict-related sexual violence. I would like to reiterate here, that as long as there are new victims, this is not enough. We need to take more important measures, we need to put an end to impunity, we need put an end to violence and we need to do it now.

Denis Mukwege

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