Do you remember the crystal glass the Elf-queen Galadriel gives to Frodo in the Lord of the Rings? The darker it gets, the brighter the glass shines. It is “a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
I have often thought of this glass of hope in these gloomy Corona days. The pandemic is a huge challenge for all of us. It has bereft many people around the world of their loved ones. It threatens our economies. It slows down international Exchange.
And: the pandemic is not democratic. It doesn’t affect everyone in equal terms. Some are feeling the effects of this crisis more than others. And among those who are most affected are: women and Girls.
They often bear the lion’s share of care work for their families. They earn less than men and particularly suffer from the economic consequences of COVID-19. And while being locked-in at home, women and girls are now even more in danger of experiencing domestic violence.
Also, the destabilizing effects of the pandemic nourish crimes and abuses like human trafficking, which affect women and girls disproportionally.
In fragile regions the situation is particularly dire. Nadia, we last met on August 3rd for the Commemoration of the beginning of the genocidal campaign against the Yazidi minority. Your words about the plight, but also the strength of Yazidi women and girls still echo in my head.
And the annual report by the UN Secretary General on sexual violence in conflict shows that as we speak, human beings are violated and humiliated all over the world.
The big danger is that during the pandemic the spotlight of international attention moves away from these crimes and leaves the victims in the shadow. But we will not let this happen.
Around the world courageous men and women defend human dignity. They support victims of sexual violence. They uphold the freedom of speech. They encourage others to be self-reliant. They call to an end to the impunity of perpetrators.
In doing so, they risk their own safety. In many places, human right defenders are threatened. They are intimidated. And they are persecuted. Many of them are women. It is our duty to defend those who defend others.
Warm words are not enough. Support, funding and protection are the three keywords here.
The adoption of resolution 2467 under the German Security Council presidency on ending sexual violence in conflicts in April 2019 was an important step. Now, we must all make sure, the resolution is implemented on the Ground.
Prevention is essential. Perpetrators must be held accountable. And it is the Security Council’s obligation to make better and more active use of sanctions to deter these crimes.
Second, sufficient funding is necessary. The fight against sexual and gender-based violence as well as human trafficking is not only an investment into human rights. It is also an investment into the stability of communities and entire regions. Germany has therefore substantially stepped up its funding for projects supporting the survivors of sexual violence and human trafficking.
For example, we have been supporting initiatives by IOM and the Mukwege Foundation which develop redress and reparation measures and which also fund the development of clinical guidelines for all survivors, men and women.
And finally, we must support networks. Cooperation with women peacebuilders, women human rights defenders, and other civil society is particularly important.
If the voices of those who try to mute women are on the rise, we need the chorus of the many. The personal exchange of experts, activists and practitioners is an important source of encouragement. And it also generates new ideas and approaches. Therefore, I invited women from around the world last Friday to get together in a digital Women’s Night In. And therefore, I also very much commend this conference.
Corona makes the fight for gender equality even more important.
We must and we will support those who fight for just and equitable societies every day. Because: The darker it gets, the brighter the courage of those shines that are not willing to give in.