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Programme the cluster on Sexual Violence in Conflict in a Changing Global Environment

Sexual violence is a prevalent feature of armed conflicts that transcends continents, countries and cultures. It constitutes a serious human rights violation that affects disproportionately women, but affects women and men in an equally destructive way. Despite the absolute prohibition of all forms of sexual violence, at all times and against anyone, by three bodies of contemporary international law -humanitarian, human rights and criminal- the reality on the ground informs otherwise: “Rape as weapon of war”, “women bodies as battlefields” “symbolic deconstruction of male and female bodies” are regularly reported either as practices, strategies or collateral damages. Universally underreported by victims on many grounds, ignored by politicians on the basis of other priorities, conflict related sexual violence has, and to a large extent still is shrouded in silence. It is an appealing challenge that requires a comprehensive response. Facilitated by contextual factors in conflict and post-conflict situations, including, in the case of displaced or refugees along the smuggling route, sexual violence is further encouraged by a culture of impunity and lack of accountability. It is characterised by limited support services and poor monitoring.

In a rapidly changing global environment, the use of sexual violence by terrorists and violent extremists groups has but deepen concerns about the scope and the magnitude of the phenomenon. The UN Secretary General in his 2016 relevant report underlines that the recognition of sexual violence as both a tactic of war and a tactic of terrorism affirms that conflict resolution and counter-terrorism strategies can no loger be decoupled from efforts to protect and empower women and to combat conflict-related violence. Deeply rooted in stereotypes and widespread social practices, sexual violence is an extreme form of Gender Based Violence (GBV), which reinforces gender inequalities and causes far-reaching and devastating damage to victims, their families and communities. It erodes the very fabric of entire societies as it aims at their humiliation and symbolic destruction, and thus hindering sustainable peace and threatening international security. The international community has only recently recognised sexual violence against women in conflict and post-conflict situations as an important global security problem and women as a force for peace in this respect.

Sexual violence in conflict still remains one of the most pervasive human rights violations of our time and inflict great harm and suffering on millions of individuals worldwide. In this respect, the work of the United Nations Secretary General Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict and the European Parliament’s 2014 and 2016 Sakharov Prizes illustrate the significant efforts that the international community deploys to combat the phenomenon. As breaking the circle of silence is an important step in combating and ending the phenomenon, this cluster proposes to critically assess the issue of sexual violence in conflict. It provides participants both with a sound theoretical and analytical framework and with empirical evidence by means of innovative participatory teaching methods of the European Inter University Centre.

The cluster will provide a state of the art critical appraisal on Sexual Violence in conflict and post-conflict situations and stimulate reflection on key challenges worldwide. Participants will have the opportunity to refine their knowledge on both empirically and theoretically informed analyses. They will also have the opportunity to hold informed discussions with leading scholars and decision-makers.

The cluster is specifically targeting postgraduates, alumni, activists and practitioners interested in interdisciplinary human rights, gender equality, women empowerment. Young lawyers, social scientists, psychotherapists, NGO activists and practitioners, active and motivated citizens from around the world are welcome.

L’evento è realizzato in convenzione con il Consiglio dell’Ordine sdegli Assistenti Sociali del Veneto ed è stato richiesto il riconoscimento dei crediti per la Formazione Continua degli Assistenti Sociali


Cluster Responsibles

Prof. Kalliope Agapiou - JosephidesProf. Kalliope Agapiou - Josephides

Kalliope AGAPIOU-JOSEPHIDES is a Jean Monnet Chair Holder (2001) and Assistant Professor at the University of Cyprus, Department of Social and Political Sciences.

She holds a PhD in Political Science from the Sorbonne University PARIS I Panthéon-Sorbonne, a Post Graduate Diploma in High European Studies and a Diplôme d'Etudes Approfondies (D.E.A.) in History of the XXth Century (International Relations) both from the Robert Schuman STRASBOURG III University. She also holds a Degree in Applied Foreign Languages (French-English-German) from the Sorbonne Nouvelle University PARIS III.

Her current research interests/ publications with regard to human rights and democratisation include: Women in Democratic Transitions, Women Political Participation, Election Observation Missions, e-Democracy, Parliaments and European Integration, Europe and the Mediterranean. She has undertaken/participated in several nationally and internationally funded research projects related to a variety of aspects of European integration.

She is the Deputy-President of the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation in Venice and the European Master (E.MA) Director (European Master's Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation) for the University of Cyprus.

She is also Member of the Management Board of the European Institute for Gender Equality in Vilnius.



Prof. Maria Teresa Pizarro BelezaProf. Maria Teresa Pizarro Beleza

Prof. Teresa Pizarro Beleza graduated in Law and became an academic shortly after. She taught and did research on Criminal law and Women’s Law in Coimbra, Lisbon, Cambridge and Venice (EIUC). She initiated the teaching and research on Women’s Rights in Portugal, where she taught “Women’s Law” for the first time in 1998-1999, after being invited to join the new (1997) Faculdade de Direito (Law School) of the Universidade NOVA de Lisboa (www.fd.unl.pt).

Her PhD thesis, on The Consruction of the Concept Women in the Criminal Law, was a daring and innovative feminist approach to Women’s Law and Criminology in Portugal. She opened up the way for many other younger lawyers and students who went on to doing research in such areas.

She has taught and published extensively on Criminal Law and on Women’s Law and Women’s Rights, both at pre- and post- graduate level.

She has supervised many Master and PhD dissertations on Human Rights, including Women’s Rights, some of which by E.Ma Students (Venice).

She served at the CPT (Council of Europe) as an elected member in respect of Portugal. She also participated as an expert in Human Rights in the EU-China and EU-Iran Dialogues.

She is now Director (Dean) of the Law School, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, and a member of the Board of EIUC in Venice.


Lamya Haji BasharLamya Haji Bashar

Lamya Haji Bashar is a survivor of sexual enslavement by Islamic State (IS) and has become a spokesperson for women afflicted by IS's campaign of sexual violence. She is a public advocate for the Yazidi community in Iraq, a religious minority that has been the subject of a genocidal campaign by IS militants.

On 3 August 2014, IS slaughtered all the males in the village of Kocho, Haji Bashar's hometown in Sinjar/Iraq. Following the massacre, women and children were enslaved. Haji Bashar was also exploited as a sex slave along with her six sisters. She was sold five times among the militants and was forced to make bombs and suicide vests in Mosul after IS militants executed her brothers and father.

Haji Bashar tried to flee several times before finally escaping in April with the help of her family, who paid local smugglers. On her way over the Kurdish border, and while racing towards Iraq's government-controlled territory with IS militants in pursuit, a landmine exploded, killing two of her acquaintances and leaving her injured and almost blind. Luckily she managed to escape and was eventually sent for medical treatment in Germany, where she was reunited with her surviving siblings. Since her recovery Haji Bashar has been active in raising awareness about the plight of the Yazidi community and continues to help women and children who were victims of IS enslavement and atrocities. 

In December 2016, the European Parliament awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Lamya Haji Bashar together with Nadia Murad Basee Taha in recognition of their bravery and courage in the fight against IS atrocities.


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