Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma today welcomed the opportunity over coming days for Commonwealth member states to bring their collective influence to bear in protecting the human rights of women. Ahead of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, which convenes in London 10–13 June, Mr Sharma referred to the denunciation by Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in Sri Lanka last November of ‘the dehumanising and cowardly use of sexual violence in armed conflict and as a weapon of war’.
Speaking in London, Mr Sharma said that Commonwealth leaders had requested him as Secretary-General of the 53 member family of nations to support conflict-affected states in ‘strengthening their capacity to prevent and respond to sexual violence in armed conflict, and to ensure that all relevant programmes in the fields of international peace and security, rule of law, gender equality, human rights, and the role of civil society address these issues and take into full consideration the needs and rights of women and children’.
The Secretary-General encouraged governments and legislatures in all Commonwealth member states to give the highest priority to finding ways of implementing the agreement expressed by Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in Colombo ‘to encourage, support and protect the efforts of civil society organisations, including women’s groups and human rights defenders, to improve the monitoring and documentation of cases of sexual violence in armed conflict without fear of reprisal and empower victims to access justice’.
Mr Sharma has also expressed concern at the brutality of recent incidents of horrific violence against women in Commonwealth countries. He stressed the need for urgent and concerted practical action to decisively work to change attitudes and to strengthen social and legal mechanisms to overcome the scourge of violence against women. He stressed that the need for enhanced protection applied both in times of conflict, and more widely - whenever or wherever the dignity, safety and security of women is threatened.