UNGA Survivors Resolution

UNGA Survivors Resolution

Lara Kajs | 6 September 2022 |

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) unanimously adopted the resolution International Cooperation for Access to Justice for Survivors of Sexual Violence on Friday, 2 September, condemning all forms of sexual violence. The UNGA Survivors Resolution is a standalone resolution and the first time the UN has passed a resolution recognizing rape in peacetime.

UN General Assembly resolutions are decisions voted on by all member states and require that each country has an on-the-record point of view. They are recommendations and not legally binding. However, a resolution that passes unanimously has increased potential, for its implementation in the global community. It is a welcomed indication that the world’s countries are leaning to end the stigmatization of rape.

The scale of sexual violence is disturbing. Thirty-five percent – 1.3 billion women – in the world have suffered the painful experience of sexual violence. To put this in simple numbers, that is more than the combined populations of the North American and European continents. One in three women will experience rape in their lifetime. It happens in every country, in every culture, to anyone of any age, in any demographic. We all have a responsibility to do what we can to prevent sexual violence and to help everyone who experiences this horrific trauma.

The lasting impact that sexual violence has far surpasses the attack. Shamed into secrecy, survivors are often blamed for their rape, which adds to their trauma. Without support, assistance to address the trauma, and the ability to seek justice and be acknowledged; rape survivors are left to heal on their own. Their cries for help are often ignored by family, neighbors, friends, and colleagues. One-third of those experiencing sexual violence consider suicide as their only option to escape their trauma and shame.

Relationships are broken. In societal culture, women who are raped lose their purity and value, and as a result, are unable to marry. Parents may discard their daughters and husbands may reject their wives – because of something (rape) that happened to them, through no fault of their own… shamed and shunned, because they experienced sexual violence.

Rape has been off the international radar for far too long. Victim blaming, denial, silencing, rejection, and honor killing of rape survivors – are all part of the stigma of rape – and they are tactics used to keep survivors silent and to deny them justice… it is time for it to end. The guilt needs to land where it belongs … on the perpetrator. Society needs to erase survivor blaming and shaming, and this historic resolution is a positive step in the right direction.

The resolution was led by Sierra Leon and co-sponsored by eighty-four countries – nearly half of the world. The resolution includes the ability to terminate legal ties with the perpetrator, the ability to report the assault without financial cost to the survivor, and universal jurisdiction, among other stipulations. Emphasizing the importance of strengthening the international response to support survivors, it encourages all countries to take effective measures, within the framework of international law, to provide survivors access to justice, and reparations, ensuring that survivors get recognition and support from the global community.

“What Were You Wearing?”

The UN Spotlight Initiative and Rise, a nonprofit that fights for the rights of sexual violence survivors worldwide, collaborated to host the “What Were You Wearing?” campaign. “What Were You Wearing?”, which ran from 11 July through 31 August 2022, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, presented the outfits worn by 103 women when they were raped. The purpose of this powerful exhibit was to raise social awareness, to be a supportive resource for survivors, and to stop the shaming and blaming of sexual violence survivors. “It is not your fault and you are not alone.”

Amanda Nguyen, Founder of Rise, and a rape survivor who has been leading the movement for the past six years said, “We can hold a light up to this darkest corner of human experience and allow survivors, at last, to be seen, to be heard, to be believed, and to be empowered.”

While the passing of the International Cooperation for Access to Justice for Survivors of Sexual Violence resolution is symbolic – it is the first sign of a shift in attitude toward victims and survivors of sexual assault and a move toward helping them receive assistance and seek justice.

Photo Credit: UN General Assembly by Patick Gruban.