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Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict

Volume 673: debated on Tuesday 17 March 2020

The preventing sexual violence in conflict initiative remains a top Government priority. The UK is recognised as a global leader on the issue. We have committed over £46 million across 29 countries since 2012 and deployed the UK PSVI team of experts over 90 times. We are currently reassessing potential dates for the PSVI international conference in the light of developments on coronavirus, but we are committed to progressing conference ambitions of strengthening justice for survivors and holding the perpetrators of these horrific crimes to account.

I thank the Minister for his response. In 2019, 14 million women were subject to gender-based violence. We know that this figure rises during conflicts and crises. Will the ministerial team work with international groups and make representations at the UN later this year—presuming that the conference goes ahead—on preventing sexual violence in conflict and ensuring that we keep a firm eye on gender-based violence?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I know that he takes a keen interest in this area, given his previous work for Lord Hague, the former Foreign Secretary.

This is a big year for gender equality, as it includes the 25th anniversary of the Beijing declaration and platform for action, and the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. The UK is proud to be a global leader in efforts to eradicate gender-based violence, and this year we will launch a new £67.5 million multi-country programme to prevent gender-based violence. We have expressed a strong interest in leading the Generation Equality action coalition on ending gender-based violence, and we will announce plans for the proposed UN General Assembly summit in due course.

The aforementioned Lord Hague—the architect of the preventing sexual violence initiative—recently said that if the UK was not prepared to take effective action in this area,

“it would be better to let another country take the lead”.

Does the Minister agree, or will he listen to Lord Hague and give this vital initiative the funding and political leadership it deserves?

We are wholly committed as a nation to ensuring that all efforts to tackle conflict-related sexual violence are survivor-centred, in line with UN Security Council resolution 2467, and that this policy and practice avoids the re-traumatisation of survivors.

Some appalling incidents of gender-based violence occurred during the Sri Lankan civil war. Will the Foreign Office do everything in its power to persuade the Sri Lankan Government to live up to the commitments they made in sponsoring resolution 30/1 in the UN Human Rights Council?

We certainly will. My right hon. Friend raises an important point. We are in regular contact and will ensure that, through our network and all channels, we discuss this with our Sri Lankan friends.