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HomeWorldRussia uses rape as a military strategy in Ukraine war, says UN

Russia uses rape as a military strategy in Ukraine war, says UN


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The rapes and sexual assaults attributed to Russian forces in Ukraine constitute “a military strategy” and a “deliberate tactic to dehumanize victims”, said the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten.

“All the signs are there,” Patten said in an interview with the AFP news agency in Paris, where he signed an agreement last Thursday with the NGO Libraries Without Borders to support victims of sexual assaults during conflict.

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“When women and girls are kidnapped for days and raped, when boys and men begin to be raped, when we see a series of cases of genital mutilation, when we hear testimonies from women who talk about Russian soldiers using Viagra, clearly a military strategy,” he said.

“And when victims talk about what was said during the rapes, it is clear that it is a deliberate tactic to dehumanize them,” adds the 64-year-old Anglo-Mauritian lawyer, a UN special representative since 2017.

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Patten points out that the first cases were reported three days after the invasion of Ukraine began on February 24. Since then, the UN has verified more than 100 occurrences.

But the reported cases “are just the tip of the iceberg”, he says. “It is very complicated to have reliable statistics during an active conflict. The numbers will never reflect reality, because sexual violence is a silent crime, the least reported and the least condemned.”

This is, she says, out of fear of reprisals and stigmatization of victims, who are mainly women and girls.

Victims of sexual violence aged 4 to 82 years

A report released in late September by an independent international investigative commission created at the request of the United Nations confirmed war crimes committed by Russian forces.

“According to the testimonies, the age of victims of sexual violence ranges from 4 years to 82 years. There are many cases of sexual violence against children, who are raped, tortured and kidnapped”, says Patten. “My fight against sexual violence is a real fight against impunity.”

Patten said his visit to Ukraine in May was intended to “send a strong signal to the victims, affirm that we stand with them and ask them to break the silence”. But she also hopes to have sent a message to the rapists: “The world is watching [vocês]and raping a woman or a girl, a man or a boy, will have consequences,” he added.

Rape as a weapon of war has always existed in conflicts, from Bosnia to the Democratic Republic of Congo. But Patten believes that the War in Ukraine represents an international awareness of this crime. “Now there is a political will to fight impunity and a consensus that rape is used as a military tactic, a terror tactic.”

“Is it because it happens in the heart of Europe? Maybe the answer is there”, adds the UN representative, hoping that Ukraine will not overshadow the other conflicts. “I consider very positive the interest in the issue of sexual violence linked to conflicts, which has always been considered inevitable, as a collateral damage, a cultural issue. But this is a crime”, she insists.

Another concern for the lawyer is the risk of human trafficking. “Women, girls and children who have fled Ukraine are very vulnerable, and for predators, what is happening in this country is not a tragedy but an opportunity. Human trafficking is an invisible crime, but it is a major crisis.” .”

Since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, more than 7.6 million Ukrainians have sought refuge in other European countries.

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