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Nepal: South Asian experts gather to discuss sexual violence

Nepal: South Asian experts gather to discuss sexual violence and armed conflict

Kathmandu, 7 April 2014 – The fifth annual South Asian Regional Conference on International Humanitarian Law, jointly organized by the Government of Nepal and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), will be held in Kathmandu on 8-10 April 2014. This year’s conference will primarily focus on addressing the issue of sexual violence in armed conflict and post-conflict situations.

Narahari Acharya, the Nepalese Minister for Law, Justice, Constituent Assembly and Parliamentary Affairs will inaugurate the conference and Secretary Bhesh Raj Sharma of the same ministry will chair the opening ceremony.

Approximately 40 high-level government officials, representing Ministries of member States of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Iran, will attend the conference. The conference will provide an opportunity for participants to share information on steps taken by states to promote and implement international humanitarian law and to discuss recent developments and challenges in the region.

“A number of factors increase the vulnerability of men, women and children to acts of sexual violence during armed conflict,” said Dragana Kojic, head of the ICRC delegation in Nepal. “In particular, women and children, who are often unaccompanied for long periods of time when male relatives are detained, missing or engaged in hostilities, are more exposed to such violations. The ICRC recognises such realities and the need for greater protection through law and action.”

"Sexual violence in armed conflict is widespread, yet is vastly underestimated in terms of prevalence and consequences. It remains invisible in many contexts, as feelings of guilt or shame, fear of retaliation or taboos may prevent victims from coming forward,” added Ms Kojic.

The annual conference was first held in 2009 in Katmandu, and has subsequently been held in Bangladesh, the Republic of Maldives and Bhutan. The ICRC promotes respect for international humanitarian law on the basis of its mandate under the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols.

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