Open Doors UK & Ireland’s CEO has welcomed a new Government declaration condemning sexual violence in conflict. Henrietta Blyth has hailed it ‘an important milestone in recognising the vulnerabilities of both faith and gender’.
Her remarks follow a pledge from the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, Lord Tariq Ahmad. The pledge commits to condemn ‘utterly all acts of conflict-related sexual violence’ and ‘refute the stigma’ faced by victims.
The Declaration of Humanity by Leaders of Faith and Leaders of Belief comes from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). It follows long campaigning by Open Doors and its supporters for the Government to acknowledge the unique vulnerabilities of women belonging to religious minorities.
Henrietta Blyth said:
“Open Doors welcomes this statement – it’s an issue we have campaigned hard over.
“Too often terrorist groups twist religion to justify sexual violence. We need to stand in total opposition to this.
“The persecutors recognise that by targeting women and girls, they potentially destroy not only them but their menfolk, churches and wider communities.
“It is a highly calculated and very cruel strategy.
Announcing FDCO’s commitment Lord Ahmad called for faith leaders to “dismantle the stigma” for victims of sexual violence and “put and arm around the survivors”.
Global Gender Persecution Specialist at Open Doors International Helene Fisher explains that the charity was working with partners to break down the stigma for survivors of sexual violence in conflict and for children born of rape:
“If women, abducted and raped by terrorist groups like Boko Haram, manage to escape their captors they are often rejected by their communities on their return, traumatising them further.
“Their children can be labelled Boko Babies, reinforcing that stigma again.”
Last year Open Doors’ See. Change. Campaign presented The Handmade Petition – a quilt banner made up of more than 16,000 individual patchwork pieces – to Westminster last year. The petition called on the Government to recognise that Christian women are vulnerable to sexual violence, not just for their gender, but also for their faith.