By Megan Nobert, PhD Candidate in Law and independent consultant on international criminal law, human rights and gender equality
To me, UNSC Resolution 1325 is not just a piece of paper; it is a series of promises we made to ourselves and the world that we will not stand for sexual violence in conflict. I have kept this resolution with me all these years, holding onto the belief that there is power in its words, that there is hope so long as we have these resolutions, these principles to seize onto in the dark moments.
Throughout the past 5 years, I have focused my work on sexual violence in conflict zones. My goal has been to help reduce the number of instances of sexual violence and to help those women and young girls who have been subjected to the crime. I have been lucky enough to be allowed to do this work as both an academic and professional, in several different countries with several different organizations. The astonishing and resilient women I have met throughout the past 5 years have been such an inspiration. Their determination and strength in the face of utter adversity is what has kept me going through the beginning of my career. I cannot thank them enough for allowing me to enter their lives, for their kindness and their compassion.
As I head into the middle years of my career, I know that my focus is changing. I am still inspired by these women and I will continue to fight for them on any front that someone is willing to send me. However, the group of people I want to help has expanded to include my fellow humanitarians, other women like me.
This was not a natural shift, but the result of a traumatic experience. In February of this year, while working in South Sudan, I was drugged and raped by another member of the humanitarian community. There has not been any justice yet. My assaulter was sent out of the country, with full pay, instead of being fired. I was not given the opportunity to file a complaint with his organization. Turning to the police was not a realistic option, given that the local officials are known to dismiss charges of sexual violence. It was a horrible moment, and there were many dark days for me after this happened.
Yet, while there may not be justice for me, there can be for someone else. Right now, I am trying to start a dialogue on sexual violence against humanitarians, not in opposition to sexual violence against local communities, but as a parallel conversation highlighting the many sections and nuances of sexual violence in conflict.
My focus may be expanding but it remains as strong as ever. I will keep UNSC Resolution 1325, its existing companions and those still be drafted near to me. When I head back into the field however, I want to add a few other UNSC Resolutions to my arsenal. I want to add UNSC Resolution 2175, which condemns the increasingly common attacks on humanitarian workers. I also want to add UNSC Resolution 2222, which condemns attacks on journalists and associated personnel, and any other similar resolutions that are to come.
UNSC Resolution 1325 and its companion resolutions were created to ensure that sexual violence in conflict did not occur without impunity. We have these incredible amounts of tools at our disposal, and my goal is to use them to make sure that what happened to me does not happen to anyone else. I will use them to ensure that impunity does not continue to exist. I will continue to fight for those who are not able to currently fight for themselves, to the best of my ability. These are not just meaningless pieces of paper or empty words.