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Boko Haram, Islamic State use sexual violence as a tactic of war, says a UN report

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Amidst mounting cases of sexual violence in the war-ravaged conflict zones, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has come out with a report titled “Conflict-related sexual violence”, urging the United Nations Security Council to prevent and address sexual violence in armed conflicts, including promoting greater participation of women in peacebuilding efforts.

The report highlights the stiff challenges of  poor monitoring, limited support services, and lack of accountability that 19 countries during 2014 faced. It pushes the Security Council to integrate attention to sexual violence into its monitoring and field visits to conflict-affected countries, and to take preventive steps and measures to ensure accountability, including sanctions and referrals to the International Criminal Court.

“The history of war-zone rape has been a history of denial. It is time to bring these crimes, and those who commit them, into the spotlight of international scrutiny”, Zainab Hawa Bangura, a Special Representative of the United Nations said as she presented the report on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Stressing that the time had come “to send a clear message that the world will not tolerate the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war and terror”, Bangura said that it was the first time that a report has articulated the link between sexual violence and the strategic objectives, ideology and finding of extremist groups, noting therefore that women’s empowerment and sexual violence prevention should be central to international response.

The report, with its focus on countering violent extremism, asserts that conflict-related sexual violence is a core element of the ideology and operation of extremist groups such as Boko Haram and Islamic State (also known as ISIS), and recommends a stronger focus on this threat.

The report  also underlines the importance of governments’ need to consult with women to counter violent extremism.

However, human rights advocacy group, Human Rights Watch (HRW), criticized the report and said it gives inadequate attention to sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers. It also blamed the UN for not recording or officially acknowledging many cases, including the Sudanese army attacks in Tabit.

Nisha Varia, women’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch said , “In conflicts around the world, armies and armed groups use sexual violence as a devastating tactic of war.”

“The UN Security Council should not dodge its responsibilities to survivors and should take strong action to support survivors and sanction those responsible for sexual violence,” she said.

According to HRW, the Sudanese government has blocked a credible investigation and victims’ access to services, against which the Security Council has taken no action in response.

Furthermore, the report does not list or make recommendations concerning African Union troops, who were found to be committing acts of sexual exploitation and abuse by the Human Rights Watch.

“Humanitarian assistance providers and governments should adopt stronger measures for protection, including in displacement and resettlement settings,” Human Rights Watch said.

Underlining the long-lasting impact of conflict-related sexual violence, the Human Rights Watch emphasised the need for credible investigations into allegations of sexual violence in Nepal and Sri Lanka, and the need for reparations for victims.

 

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Sri Lanka to Reduce Airline Charges to Help Tourism Industry

The government currently predicts $3.7 billion in revenue from tourism this year, down from an initial forecast of $5 billion

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Buddhist monks take part in a prayer ceremony at a buddhist temple for the victims, three days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 24, 2019. VOA

Sri Lanka’s government announced Tuesday it will reduce ground handling charges for airlines and slash aviation fuel prices and embarkation fees to help the country’s vital tourism industry recover after Easter suicide bombings killed more than 250 people.

Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said the decision will lead to an increase in flights to Sri Lanka and a reduction in ticket prices, which will attract more tourists to the Indian Ocean island nation, famed for its pristine beaches.

Seven suicide bombers from a local Muslim group, National Thowheed Jammath, attacked three churches and three luxury hotels on April 21, killing 258 people, including 45 foreigners mainly from China, India, the U.S. and Britain. Tourist arrivals declined 57% in June from a year earlier, dealing a severe blow to the tourism industry, the country’s third-largest foreign currency earner after remittances from overseas workers and textile and garment exports.

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Kandy Temple of the Tooth in Sri Lanka. Wikimedia Commons

The cuts in charges and fees will be in place for six months, said Johanne Jayaratne, head of the government’s tourism development agency. About 2.3 million tourists visited Sri Lanka in 2018, when 29 airlines offered 300 flights per week. After the April 21 attacks, 41 fights per week were canceled, amounting to a loss of 8,000 passenger seats. Several airlines have reinstated their normal schedules since then, but others have not.

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Dimuthu Tennakoon, chairman of the Board of Airline Representatives, said the government decision will encourage airlines to increase their capacity and offer attractive fares.
“That will definitely happen with this reduction because fuel and ground handling contribute a significant percentage of the total cost element of any airline,” he said.

Tourism accounts for 4.9% of Sri Lanka’s GDP. Around half a million Sri Lankans depend directly on tourism and 2 million indirectly. The government currently predicts $3.7 billion in revenue from tourism this year, down from an initial forecast of $5 billion. (VOA)