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Rape more than a gender issue, U.N. says

Oct. 22, 2010 at 12:30 PM

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Rape as a weapon isn't just a gender issue but lies at the forefront of peace and reconciliation, the United Nations' top official on sexual violence said.

A U.N. human rights team found that more than 300 civilians were raped in the Congo by militants July 30-Aug. 2. The U.N. peacekeeping mission in the area deflected criticism that it ignored warnings that surfaced days before the rapes occurred some 20 miles from their base.

The rapes were allegedly carried out by members of the Congolese Mai Mai militia and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.

Margot Wallstrom, the U.N. special envoy on sexual violence in conflict, laid out an agenda that ensures sexual violence against women isn't just a gender issue but an issue of reconciliation.

"Peace negotiations must address sexual violence early and fully to prevent war-time rape from becoming peacetime reality," she said in a statement.

She added that in order for political reforms to take place in parts of Africa were sexual violence prevails, change must be felt in the lives of women.

"Their security is the true measure of success," she said.

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