News 2008


Unicef slams 'licence to rape'

- Sapa-AFP -

February 12 2008

Geneva - Sexual violence has reached epidemic proportions in African countries from Kenya to Sudan with many men seeing social chaos as a "licence to rape," the UN children's fund warned on Tuesday.

"Sexual violence is taking epidemic proportions and it is translating into the civilian populations, no longer only the military and the militia," Unicef Deputy Executive Director Hilde Frafjord Johnson told AFP.

The warning came as Unicef launched an appeal for $856-million to help women and children who are victims of emergencies in 39 different countries.

Kenya, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo have all been in the grip of severe political unrest which has forced hundreds of thousands from their homes and left many women and children vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

"It seems there is a licence to rape when everything falls apart, in the sense that it becomes legitimate to do things that you otherwise never would do," Frafjord Johnson said.

"It seems to go with a significant uprooting of a society, that some of the social norms just crumble," she added.

Sudan tops the list of countries in need of aid, with Unicef calling for $150-million.

The country has been wracked by civil strife for decades, with the conflict in the western Darfur region estimated to have forced at least two million people from their homes.

The conflict's complex and fragmented nature makes it very difficult to establish a secure environment to deliver aid and relief, Frafjord Johnson said.

Chad, a key destination for many Darfur refugees which has itself seen fierce fighting between government and rebel troops in recent weeks, will need $44-million in 2008, while the Democratic Republic of Congo requires 106 million dollars, Unicef said.

Frafjord Johnson noted that Unicef's Humanitarian Action Appeal for 2007 was only 52 percent met, and urged the international community to dig deeper to meet the needs of women and children in 2008.