Rape in Ukraine as a Russian ‘military strategy’: UN

Rape in Ukraine as a Russian ‘military strategy’: UN


Rapes and sexual assaults attributed to Moscow’s forces in Ukraine are part of a Russian “military strategy” and a “premeditated tactic to dehumanize the victims,” ??UN envoy Pramila Patten told AFP in an interview.

“All the evidence is there,” the UN special representative on sexual violence told AFP on Thursday when asked if rape is used as a weapon of war in Ukraine.

“When women are being held for days and raped, when you start raping little boys and men, when you see a spate of genital mutilation, when you hear women testifying about Viagra-equipped Russian soldiers, it’s clearly a military strategy,” she said .

“And when the victims report what was said during the rapes, it’s clearly a deliberate tactic to dehumanize the victims.”

The United Nations has confirmed “more than a hundred cases” of rape or sexual assault since the war began, Patten said.

The first cases were reported just “three days after the invasion of Ukraine” on February 24, she added, citing a UN report released in late September.

The report “confirmed crimes against humanity committed by the Russian armed forces, and according to collected testimony, the ages of victims of sexual violence ranged from four to 82 years,” Patten said.

The victims are mostly women and girls, but men and boys are also included, she added.

“There are many cases of sexual violence against children who are raped, tortured and held hostage,” she said.

But “reported cases are just the tip of the iceberg,” she added.

“It is very difficult to have reliable statistics during an active conflict and the numbers will never reflect reality because sexual violence is a “silent crime” that is largely underreported.

– “The World is Watching” –

Patten said her fight against sexual violence was “a fight against impunity.”

“That’s why I went to Ukraine (in May): to send a strong signal to the victims, to tell them we stand by them and to ask them to break their silence,” she said.

But “it also sends a strong signal to the rapists. The world is watching them, and the rape of a woman or a girl, a man or a boy will not go unnoticed.”

Rape as a weapon of war has been reported in conflicts around the world, from Bosnia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

But the war in Ukraine marked a turning point in international attitudes, the UN envoy said.

“There is now a political will to fight impunity and there is a consensus today that rape will be used as a military tactic, as a terrorist tactic,” Patten said.

“Is it because it’s happening now in the heart of Europe? That could be it.”

However, she hopes that the focus on Ukraine will not distract from other conflicts.

“I find this attention to … conflict-related sexual violence very positive,” she said, unlike in the past when the issue was viewed as “inevitable,” mere “collateral damage,” or even a “cultural issue.”

Patten said she was also concerned about the risk of human trafficking.

“The women, girls and children who have fled Ukraine are very, very vulnerable and for predators what is happening in this country is not a tragedy but an opportunity,” she said.

“Human trafficking is an invisible crime, but it is a major crisis.”

More than seven million Ukrainians have fled the fighting to other European countries since the war began, says the UN refugee agency.

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