In 2012, the Republic of Mali experienced an armed conflict in the regions of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, as well as in parts of the Mopti region. This was followed by a political, institutional and security crisis without precedent that profoundly destabilized the country in all areas and had an impact and serious consequences for the rights of women and girls.
Terrorists and armed groups occupying parts of northern Mali violated the rights of the local population, and especially those of women and girls. They forced women and girls to wear a chador (Islamic veil) and flogged and publicly stoned women falsely accused of breaking the law.
In addition to this, cases of forced marriage were reported in all the areas that were under occupation. This included cases of young women who were forced into marriage with members of armed groups under circumstances where the marriage was simply arranged to give a cover of legitimacy to kidnappings and rapes, which, in some cases, could amount to sexual slavery.
Now these women have to deal with the physical and psychological consequences of the sexual violence that was inflicted on them during the armed conflict. They suffer this trauma silently due to a lack of trust in institutions, security and justice, fear of reprisals from the perpetrators and stigmatization by their communities, while the perpetrators remain unpunished. Support services for the survivors of violence, if they exist at all, are difficult to access and the victims hide as they are afraid of being stigmatized.
In an attempt to escape from the violence, many women and their children fled to secure areas inside and outside Mali. This resulted in immediate difficulties in finding shelter and food.
The crisis also caused a disruption of the existing social structures, increased poverty amongst women and undermined the authority of the state, including the authority of institutions in the field of security and justice.
Mali's case is unfortunately not unique. Contemporary conflicts have a disproportionate impact on women and girls, on whom violence, forced displacement and the struggle for survival take a heavy toll. In addition, conflict parties increasingly use rape as a weapon of war to instill fear, force people into displacement and insult the enemy.
This calls for greater involvement of the international community in terms of prevention and protection. Peacekeeping missions should identify, prevent and address cases of sexual violence and provide increased protection to women and children in conflict. The actions of peacekeeping missions should also have a catalytic effect, by providing an example and by supporting victims to allow them to make a new beginning on a more stable and inclusive basis by denouncing discrimination. We must implement a gender policy that calls for inclusiveness in our protection and support roles and tasks, by analyzing and considering the needs, aspirations and abilities of men and women, girls and boys, in all activities we undertake, to ensure that there is an equal impact in the community. This will allow the mission to leave behind committed and capable development actors to govern Mali once it leaves the country.
This is also reflected in the mandate of MINUSMA, which was created by Resolution 2100 of 25 April 2013 and renewed by Resolution 2164 of 25 June 2014.