United States condemns gender-based violence in Sahel, says women must be protected

Women and young girls in Africa’s Sahel region have been targeted by abuse and sexual violence, U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations Richard Mills said on Wednesday.

Mr. Richard Mills, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations. Photo via World Federation of United Nations Associations
Mr. Richard Mills, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations. Photo via World Federation of United Nations Associations

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“Women and girls in the Sahel region face a myriad of threats to their emotional wellbeing, to their physical safety,” said Mills.

In the Sahel, there is a deteriorating security situation that is threatening stability as insurgent groups and extremist organizations such as Boko Haram clash with regional security forces. Many civilians have been subject to abuse and displacements as a result of ongoing conflicts.

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Women and girls, many of whom already faced gender-based violence and inequality within their communities, are often left particularly vulnerable and are subject to some of the worse of these abuses.

“As we heard from our briefers, these threats range from female genital mutilation and cutting, to domestic violence, to early and forced marriage. Further, women and girls are often deliberately targeted in conflict, and experience high rates of conflict-related sexual violence, abductions, and other forms of hideous abuse,” said the U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations.

Nigerien soldiers practice vehicle contact movements while participating in a special forces training exercise during Exercise Flintlock 2018 in Agadez, Niger, April 18, 2018. Photo via USAFRICOM
Nigerien soldiers practice vehicle contact movements while participating in a special forces training exercise during Exercise Flintlock 2018 in Agadez, Niger, April 18, 2018. Flintlock is an annual, African-led, integrated military and law enforcement exercise working with multinational special operations groups. The exercise is designed to strengthen the ability of key partner nations in the region to counter violent extremist organizations, protect their borders, and provide security for their people. (U.S. Army photo by Richard Bumgardner)

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In instances where human rights are under attack, it is paramount that women and young girls are not left vulnerable. As the United States emphasized Wednesday, the defense of women against gender-based violence and promotion of gender equality are fundamental in ensuring a respect for human rights.

“The international community must increase its efforts to ensure the safety of women peacebuilders, women peacekeepers, human rights defenders, and women civil society members,” continued Mills as he underscored the important role that women play in peacemaking efforts.

As the ongoing violence and conflict in the Sahel have posed a threat to the safety of women, the United States is emphasizing the participation of women in peace, security, and conflict resolution. However, the U.S. is also imploring the international community to prioritize gender equality, protection, and equal access for women in these conflict-stricken regions.

As the Sahel region faces challenges of instability and security threats, the impact that these issues have on gender equality is an inseparable component of the situation and the United States has asserted that empowering women in the region is a priority and a necessity.

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