The African Union (AU) and the United Nations signed a landmark agreement last week committing to improving the prevention of and response to sexual violence, particularly conflict-related violence, in African countries.

The agreement aims to strengthen national policies, laws, and organizations already trying to combat sexual violence, and to train police forces and peacekeepers on prevention and best responses. It emphasizes the importance of providing rehabilitative services for survivors, countering the severe stigma that survivors of sexual violence often face, and ensuring that crimes are investigated and perpetrators are brought to justice.

“National ownership, leadership and responsibility are absolutely essential if we are to protect women and girls, but also men and boys, from these barbaric crimes,” said Zainab Bangura, the Special Representative on sexual Violence in Conflict. She co-signed the document with Ambassador Smail Chergui, of Algeria, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union.

The UN and AU aim to work closely together on curbing sexual violence and other issues, such as economic development. “A solution cannot be imposed from above,” Bangura said.

Media Resources: UN News Centre 2/6/14; All Africa 2/6/14; Feminist Newswire 10/30/13

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