MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Yesterday from Guinea, we heard first-hand accounts of brutal sexual violence against women by members of the military. Those assaults happened last month during a crackdown on a pro-democracy rally. We also heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak out about those rapes. Clinton has worked with the U.N. on issues of women and security, and she visited what many call the epicenter of rape, eastern Congo. Highlighting these issues is one thing. Getting the international community to do something about them is quite another, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.
MICHELE KELEMEN: When Secretary Clinton chaired a Security Council meeting at the end of September, the council adopted a resolution that the secretary said she hoped would actually make a difference. One way that could help, she suggested, is having more women involved in mediation.
Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (Department of State): The more we know about conflicts, the more we realize that women who do not start conflicts are often the victims. But women have tremendous potential for being peacemakers and peacekeepers.
KELEMEN: It's been nearly a decade since the Security Council first passed a resolution meant to get women involved in conflict resolution and peacekeeping. The latest resolution builds on that to make sure peacekeepers protect women and children from sexual violence. Margot Wallstrom, a top European diplomat on a recent visit here to highlight the issue, said the words are good, but the follow-up is lacking.
Ms. MARGOT WALLSTROM (Vice President, European Commission): They are excellent, they are very good texts, but the problem is implementation and enforcement, so very little has happened. I would say actually almost nothing. Still, we send delegations or mediators or negotiators that are only men.
KELEMEN: Wallstrom, who chairs a network of women government ministers, told NPR there's a simple reason why it's important to change that.
Ms. WALLSTROM: Of course, it will make a difference. Who will women talk to unless we also offer a possibility to have women negotiators or mediators or special representatives and what have you? So I think it's indeed very, very important. Many of these women won't talk to men, will not be allowed to talk to men.
KELEMEN: In eastern Congo, where sexual violence is rampant, U.N. peacekeepers go on market patrols, and they have special training, required after some peacekeepers were involved in sex scandals of their own. Alan Doss, who runs the U.N. office there, says there are still far too few women wearing the U.N.'s blue helmet.
Mr. ALAN DOSS (United Nations' Top Envoy to Congo): We ask countries to provide us with women, but we don't seem to get too many. We have more women police officers, but again, it's a small fraction, and I think this is one of the big challenges for us, how to get more women in peacekeeping missions. We have, of course, a number of women in civilian positions. One of my deputies is a woman, the one who deals, actually, with rule of law issues and justice and so forth. But I think we all agree it's still far too few.
KELEMEN: Liberia, where Doss used to serve, has one all-female U.N. police unit, but that's an exception. Doss says to tackle the issue of violence against women, it will take much more than that, an overhaul of local justice systems, better training for military forces and, in the case of eastern Congo, putting various armed militias that are immune to justice out of business. He was with Secretary Clinton when she visited Goma this summer.
Ms. DOSS: That was, I thought, extremely important, because she's put it on the world map. She said this is not acceptable. And it's a problem, again, not only for the Congo, not only for Africa.
KELEMEN: Sexual violence against women has been a feature in most recent conflicts, from the Balkans to Myanmar, Sri Lanka and, lately, in Guinea.
Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.
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