United Nations representative Zainab Hawa Bangura gave a lecture Wednesday on sexual violence in times of global conflict, a speech that happened to coincide with a weeklong discussion of rape culture on campus.
Bangura ran for president in her home country of Sierra Leone, and also served as a foreign minister. She was appointed to her position as a special envoy on sexual violence in September 2012.
Bangura said sexual violence knows no geographical or cultural boundaries, and is an issue that should be addressed locally, nationally and internationally.
Bangura stressed the need to discontinue rape as a tactic of war, and spoke in detail of the pain and suffering of families due to sexual violence.
“An attack on women isn’t just an attack on an individual,” Bangura said. “It is an attack on their family and the community.”
Using vivid descriptions to exemplify the extent of sexual violence and rape in society, such as “When a man is forced to rape his own son at gunpoint, a six-month-old baby is brutally raped, and a 70-year-old woman is frightfully attacked,” Bangura argued these forms of violence are used as strategies to decimate communities during times of war.
She said that in certain societies, victims of violence are turned into outcasts, and there is a lower rate of school attendance for fear of experiencing shame. She emphasized the need to transport this shame to the perpetrators by bringing them to justice. In order for this to happen, communities must first see sexual violence as a crime.
Bangura said in countries such as Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the police, local militia and invading troops commit rape, which leads to a decreased sense of safety among citizens.
The U.N. proposed a six-plan agenda to fight this problem. Some of these goals included protecting civilians—women and girls in particular—from further attacks, mobilizing political leadership to address the issue and enforcing national responsibility.
Despite security restrictions in war-torn countries, Bangura has negated governments in order to visit smaller villages and speak with various victims of attacks. She said this direct contact is essential in making progress and influencing governments.