International Justice Day: Children Born of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence are Direct Victims
17 July is International Justice Day, marking 25 years since the adoption of the ICC Rome Statute, the founding Treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). Around the world, it is a day that reminds us of the importance to continue the fight against impunity and ensure justice for victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Since our first engagement with survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in different parts of South Sudan in 2021, concerns around the scale of neglect and invisibility of children born of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) raised the alarm for us. With our partners CIGPJ based in Juba, we have been raising it in all our meetings ever since - including with our partners CIGPJ when they met with Pramila Patten, UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict when she visited Juba in October 2022.
She suggested we make a film about it - and here it is.
Children born of conflict-related sexual violence are invisible at best. Even before they are born, their mothers are shunned, blamed and rejected by their families, who often press them to abandon the unwanted child or be rejected by their community.
In conducting research on the impact of CRSV, we heard of infanticide cases of unwanted children being thrown in latrines, cases of abuse and neglect. Once born, these children are disadvantaged due to the meagre resources single mothers can muster to feed, clothe and provide shelter. If they remain within the family orbit, they can be neglected or suffer physical abuse. There is frequent name-calling as they grow up, as well as intense stigma as either their father is unknown, or could be associated with an armed group.
On this 17 July, we call on the international community at large to prioritise ensuring children born of conflict-related rape have access to urgent reparation
The plea to recognise children born of rape as direct victims is gaining momentum as evidenced by the following interventions:
UN Security Council Resolution 2467 (2019) took special note of the neglected rights and needs of children born of rape and requested a thematic report, resulting in:
The Secretary General's thematic report (S/2022/77) on "Women and girls who become pregnant as a result of sexual violence in conflict and children born of sexual violence, January 2022"
The Secretary-General report of March 2021 (S/2021/312) on conflict-related sexual violence extensively talks about challenges faced by these children,
A CEDAW and CRC Joint Statement called for urgent implementation of the legal commitments contained in those conventions related to children born of CRSV.
An International Call to Action to Ensure the Rights and Wellbeing of Children Born of Sexual Violence in Conflict was endorsed by 18 States and civil society organisations, followed by a Platform for Action on Children Born of CRSV in 2022, which draws out a comprehensive plan in ensuring these children are protected.
To learn more about our work on justice and reparations for CRSV survivors, you can read our Study on the Status of and Opportunities for Reparations for Survivors of CRSV in South Sudan, or blogs about our activities on the ground.