Skip to main content

Sexual Violence in Conflict

Volume 648: debated on Tuesday 30 October 2018

The UK Government continue to lead global efforts to end the horror of sexual violence in conflict. We have developed tools to improve the chances of justice for survivors and in June secured sanctions against seven Burmese military officials. We will host an international conference in 2019 to galvanise the world into further action.

Given that the recent UN taskforce report highlighted appalling examples of sexual violence against Rohingya Muslims in Burma, I welcome the announcement that the Secretary of State made on his recent visit to Rakhine of increased support to victims of this terrible crime, but what can be done to increase the resources available to other conflict regions?

I thank my hon. Friend for welcoming the announcement and highlighting the work of that team of experts, who have now been deployed, I think, to 26 countries on a wide range of cases, have helped to train 17,000 people to make sure that evidence is secured and have worked extensively on this important issue in a range of situations around the world.[Official Report, 12 November 2018, Vol. 649, c. 2MC.]

The use of sexual violence was an ugly characteristic of the Sri Lankan civil war under the stewardship of Mahinda Rajapaksa, and now the very same man is back in office, illegitimately, as the Prime Minister of that country. Will the Minister now, and the Foreign Secretary shortly during topical questions, condemn unreservedly the turn of events in Sri Lanka and make sure we never see a return to those dark days of appalling human rights abuses under the Rajapaksas?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise this issue, which I know has captivated the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Asia and the Pacific. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Foreign Secretary will be calling the President today, I think, to discuss this very matter.

What diplomatic actions are being taken to assist with the return of the 113 Chibok girls who were seized from their school by Boko Haram in 2014, four and a half years ago, and are still missing? Tragically, many of them will have suffered terrible, horrific sexual and physical violence.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the Bring Back Our Girls campaign. As many will remember, that campaign is now four years old, yet 113 of the girls have still not been returned. The UK consistently offers its support for the Nigerian Government’s efforts to return these girls to their homes, and we stand ready to do more if requested.

The Minister will be aware that there are many Rohingya children living in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Will she set out in more detail what she is doing to support these boys and girls, who are at extreme risk of sexual violence?

The hon. Gentleman is right to widen the question to the extensive part of the population affected by this terrible crisis. He will know that, from a humanitarian point of view, the UK is contributing £129 million to address it, including through the kind of psychosocial support he refers to.

In recent years, the UN Population Fund has operated fearlessly at the frontline of conflict, helping hundreds of thousands of girls and women who have suffered sexual violence. Does the Minister agree that it is utterly reprehensible that Donald Trump has eliminated US funding for that agency to the tune of $700 million? Is that not one more demonstration that the current US President could not care less about women and their rights?

I am happy to be answerable at the Dispatch Box for the actions of the UK Government, and I can assure the hon. Lady that the UK continues to support this important work and, in fact, to do more on things such as access to safe family planning around the world.