Nobel laureates urge Indian govt to act against sexual violence

Visiting Nobel laureates Shirin Ebadi and Jody Williams have urged the government to intensify efforts to put an end to sexual violence against women and lend support to a global campaign.

New Delhi: Visiting Nobel laureates Shirin Ebadi and Jody Williams have urged the government to intensify efforts to put an end to sexual violence against women and lend support to a global campaign.

"We are calling on the Indian government to endorse the declaration to end the campaign to stop rape and gender violence and conflict," Liz Bernstein, founding director, Nobel Women's Initiative, of which Williams and Ebadi are members said here late last evening.

The initiative, which supports women's movements across the world, is currently spearheading an international campaign to 'Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict'.

"A couple of years ago we got together to begin a campaign to deal with gender violence and conflict. Conflict being a bigger word than just war," Williams said.

The laureate, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work toward banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines was participating in a discussion here on "How women are mobilising to end violence against women and transform our world," co-hosted by human rights organisation Breakthrough.

Bernstein said the campaign presently has support from 80 countries and is "making governments sit up and take notice."

"The campaign is focused on three elements -- Preventing sexual violence and conflict, protecting women and survivors and communities and prosecuting those responsible," Bernstein said.

Among the "decisive steps" that the laureates have urged the government to take includes an endorsement of a G8-backed declaration of commitment to end sexual violence in conflict.

"One of the ways we have seen governments come together is signing and endorsing a declaration to end sexual violence in conflict and last June over 100 governments endorsed the declaration at a summit in London. We were saddened that India was not among them," Bernstein said.

She urged supporters to sign an open letter addressed to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj seeking her to "take leadership to end sexual violence in conflict."

"I urge you to endorse the declaration and join the global movement to provide support for sexual violence survivors and end the use of rape as a weapon of war," reads the letter. Shirin Ebadi from Iran, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts for democracy and human rights, said efforts by women, especially in the Middle East region have begun to show results.

"The Constitution of Tunisia now is more progressive than other Islamic countries and the people of Tunisia owe this to their women," Ebadi said.

Sonali Khan from Breakthrough said, "In India, every day 92 women are raped... Norms in our society allows violence against women and girls to go unquestioned...We are here because we agree that rape and gender violence destroys individuals entire families and entire communities and the very essence and fabric of our societies."

Two more Nobel laureates Leymah Gbowee from Liberia and Tawakkol Karman from Yemen, who were also slated to part of the event could not attend.

"Karman, who won the Nobel in 2011 could not come because she is in south Sudan advising women on both sides of the conflict which is at a very critical juncture," Mallika Dutt, Founder Breakthrough said.

Dutt said, "Tawakkol's home in Yemen was bombed last week and was ransacked. She is dealing with conflict."

 

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