Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) - SGBV Framework

A Framework for Prevention and Response

Sexual and other forms of gender-based violence (SGBV) in war has reached epidemic proportions. The reports keep flooding in, and we are astonished again and again that these vicious acts are being perpetrated on women and girls.

  • During the last civil conflict in Liberia, local media reported on the massive increase of sexual violence, with nearly 50 per cent of the 658 rape survivors aged between 5 and 12 years. In 90 per cent of the cases involving children, the attacker was someone known to the victim.
  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo, tens of thousands of women and girls have been raped. UN officials in just one part of eastern Congo, North Kivu, estimate there are 25,000 cases of sexual violence against women and children each year. Hundreds of women line up to receive extensive surgery due to the mutilations from the rapes.
  • In mid-2006 in Darfur, 200 women experienced sexual violence in a single five-week period. Earlier in 2005, 500 rape survivors received medical care.
  • Internally displaced women and girls from Sierra Leone have suffered an extraordinary level of rape, sexual violence and other gross human rights violations during their country's civil war.

Rape and sexual violence in war is now recognised, codified and prosecuted as the most serious of international crimes: war crimes, crimes against humanity and in certain circumstances the gravest crime of all – genocide. We know that cases we hear about represent only part of the whole picture. And the international community’s response is simply inadequate to protect women and girls from these heinous acts.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator must be the leader of the humanitarian community’s collective action to put in place effective prevention and response measures. These include:

First and foremost, we must protect civilians: Peacekeeping operations have a critical role to play. Sexual violence is used as a method of warfare, and it must be seen as an imminent threat that demands immediate response through the provision of more effective physical protection in areas where women and children are most at risk.

Hold States responsible: In Sudan, for example, abject failure of the Government to acknowledge the magnitude of this problem has caused severe harm, inhibiting victims’ access to treatment.

Strengthen prevention strategies: More effort needs to be placed on prevention of gender-based violence. There are also some simple, practical measures that could help prevent rape occurring in the first place. Aid workers from a number of different conflict zones are remarkably consistent in reporting that women are most often raped when outside their camps collecting firewood, foraging for animal fodder, collecting wild fruits or just leaving the camp for other reasons.

Coordinate a multi-sectoral response: The IASC has included gender-based violence as a sub-cluster under protection and has just completed a comprehensive set of guidelines on prevention and response. This tool calls on a coordinated response in which health care providers, police and other security personnel, legal/justice actors and the community – and, most importantly, men – are brought together on a regular basis to plan a multi-sectoral programme for GBV. It is not one actor or group who can do this alone – it must be a joint effort.

Speak out against gender based-violence in emergencies: We must reinforce efforts to advocate on behalf of victims/survivors, to enhance protection and to bring perpetrators to account.

Ensure care for survivors: Even if all these measures are implemented, the eradication of SGBV in conflict is nonetheless unlikely. Resources must therefore be devoted to treating the survivors of violence.

OCHA’s work at headquarters and in the field is to support the ERC in undertaking these six main areas of responsibility. The IASC has provided two main guidance tools to help implement our responsibilities. These are the IASC Gender-Based Violence Guidelines and the IASC Gender Handbook. The ERC calls on all OCHA staff to accelerate our collective efforts to end the brutality of sexual violence in conflict and ensure survivors receive compassionate and effective response.

One major effort from the UN has been its launching of UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, which unites the work of 12 UN entities, including OCHA, to prevent all forms of gender-based violence, including sexual violence in conflict, and combines with the efforts of NGO entities and others working to confront this issue. UN Action aims to improve the coordination, accountability, advocacy and support for national efforts, and to address the needs of survivors.