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Photo Credit: Open Doors UK
Photo Credit: Open Doors UK
Photo Credit: Open Doors UK
Photo Credit: Open Doors UK
UK News

UK Government launches declaration by faith leaders on gender-based violence

by Tola Mbakwe

The UK Government has taken a stand against gender-based sexual violence.

Last week it launched a policy paper entitled “Declaration of humanity by leaders of faith and leaders of belief”.

The document states that UK faith leaders “condemn utterly all acts of conflict-related sexual violence towards any person, at any time, and in any circumstance, and will encourage those under our care and others in the community to do the same”.

It also pledges that faith leaders will “work to dismantle harmful interpretations of faith or belief and harmful cultural norms that may be used to condone or commit acts of sexual violence”.

The declaration was published after campaigning and advocacy by organisations including persecution watchdog Open Doors UK.

Its research shows that Christian women living in regions of religious persecution and conflict are especially vulnerable.

Helene Fisher, global gender persecution specialist at Open Doors, told Premier: “Sexual violence is the number one most characteristic means of religious persecution of Christian women, and it also ranks up there with forced marriage.

“We see this in contexts where it's very hidden and that's what makes it so effective. We have trouble discerning it and it's hidden in domestic settings.

“It's also hidden within conflict zones. And the way it's hidden within conflict zones, is that there is this ambient situation of violence that makes for a perfect camouflage for targeted violence against a religious minority. So rape as a weapon of war can be wielded against the unwanted minority religious population in a kind of micro war.”

Fisher said examples of such violence has seen in Iraq and Syria as Yazidi and Christian women were targeted as sex slaves by Islamic State.

“We also see it regularly and systematically used across Sub-Saharan Africa, where there's a real clash between a mostly Islamic north and Christian south,” Fisher said.

This week United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said the world must prioritise the voices, experiences and needs of women and girls.

In an online event marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women he launched the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign, led by UN Women. 

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