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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

Kalliope Agapiou-JosephidesKalliope Agapiou-Josephides

She is Assistant Professor at the Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Cyprus. In 2001 she was awarded a Jean Monnet Chair in European Political Integration. She holds a PhD in Political Science from Sorbonne University, PARIS I Panthéon-Sorbonne, a Post Graduate Diploma in High European Studies, a Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies (D.E.A.) in History of the XXth Century (International Relations) from the Robert Schuman STRASBOURG III University and a Degree in Applied Foreign Languages (French-English-German) from the Sorbonne Nouvelle University PARIS III.  Her current research interests and publications include: European Political Integration, Human Rights and Democratisation, Women and Politics, Europeanization/Cyprus-EU relations, EU Mediterranean Policy/ Partnership. 



Letitia AndersonLetitia Anderson

Letitia Anderson is the Advocacy and Women's Rights Advisor to the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. She undertakes strategic advocacy with the Security Council and wider UN system, as well as national and regional security and justice sectors, to promote women's rights. Letitia previously worked with UNIFEM (now UN Women) in Governance, Peace and Security, as well as in Media, Communications and Strategic Partnerships. She has served as Coordinator of the interagency network, UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict, and has designed and delivered peacekeeper training for UNITAR in Kosovo, Timor-Leste and Cambodia. Prior to joining the UN, Letitia worked as Policy Advisor on Women and War to the ICRC in Geneva, as Legal Adviser to the ICRC Regional Delegation for the Pacific, and as National Programs Coordinator for the Australian Red Cross. She has undertaken numerous field support missions to the DRC, Liberia, Guinea, Rwanda, Bosnia, Côte d'Ivoire, South Sudan and elsewhere, to meet with survivors of sexual violence, frontline service-providers and government officials to amplify calls for justice and redress. She is the author of numerous reports, guidelines and articles on women and war, gender-based violence, and international humanitarian, criminal and human rights law, including successive Reports of the UN Secretary-General on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, which have positioned sexual violence as both a tactic of war and a tactic of terrorism.


Teresa Pizarro BelezaTeresa Pizarro Beleza

She is Full Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the new School of Law of NOVA (New University of Lisbon). She graduated in Law from the University of Coimbra and went on to Cambridge University for an M.Phil in Criminology. Her PhD in Law was awarded by the University of Lisbon, where she has taught for many years before moving to NOVA in 1998. Her main fields of interest are Criminal Law and Procedure, Gender, Equality and Discrimination, Human Rights. Non-academic affiliations include: Member of Public Prosecutors Governing Council (1996-2000); Vice-President of “Centro de Bem Estar Social”, Parish of Sesimbra, daycare centre for children from 6 months up to 10 years of age (1997-2002); EU expert in EU-China and EU-Iran Dialogues on Human Rights (1999-2002); Member of the CPT (Committee for the Prevention of Torture, Council of Europe) in reference of Portugal (1999-2003).


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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