Supporting women and children raped during conflict heart of foreign policy – Gilmore
SUPPORTING women and children raped and tortured during conflict will be the heart of Ireland's foreign policy, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore vowed today.
The country will champion the cause of those who faced gender-based violence in war zones and developing countries, he said.
The Government's new national action plan aims to increase the number of women peacekeepers and provide effective training for those on overseas missions, It will also promote awareness among support agencies for migrants and victims of trafficking in Ireland.
"For too long, the rights of women and girls affected by conflict have been ignored by the international community," said Mr Gilmore, who could not rule out a cut in the overseas aid budget on December 6.
"I commit Ireland to championing the cause of these women and I will ensure that their voices are heard."
The plan sets out how Ireland will promote the objectives of United National's Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for a greater participation of women in peace processes, the protection of women and girls in armed conflict and recognition of the link between conflict and gender-based violence.
It was launched by former president Mary Robinson at a seminar hosted by the Irish Joint Consortium on Gender Based Violence - a coalition of human rights groups, development organisations and state agencies.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights described how she witnessed desperate women fleeing conflict and famine in Somalia arriving at Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya deprived of everything.
"Some of them arrive naked. Women are raped coming to the camp," she said.
"It's so endemic because women have such a second class status. They are not equal in any sense.
"We have to tackle the whole empowerment of women to address the endemic violence because they are seen as being fair game, they are seen as being powerless and they are seen as being voiceless."
Susan McKay, of the National Women's Council of Ireland, criticised Mr Gilmore for cutting the budget of women's groups in Ireland.
"There are many women in Ireland today who have experienced rape and other forms of gender-based violence in their own persons or in their families and communities in Rwanda, Congo, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Bosnia and other countries," she said.
"Ireland is the first developed country to recognise in its national action plan a duty of care towards these women."
Angela O'Neill De Guilio, chairwoman of the consortium, revealed up to half a million women and girls were raped during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, while agencies in Haiti are reporting sex attacks on children as young as three.
She said pressure must be kept on Government to ensure the plan is not left on a shelf.
Elsewhere, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said it is supporting women who have been the victims of rape and sexual abuse in their countries of origin. They include asylum seekers, refugees, trafficked women and migrant workers.
Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop, chief executive, added: "Rape is too often used as a weapon of war in conflict-torn countries in the world."