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March 7, 2021

Seminar probes fate of women in wars

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Much is made of the heroism of (mostly) men in wars and, in recent years, the ongoing trauma experienced by soldiers after more obvious battle scars have healed.

But much less is understood about the fate of women in conflicts, who are all too often the victims of sexual violence as well as physical abuse.

So next Monday’s seminar on protecting women in war, to be held by the Red Cross in Bangalow, will undoubtedly shed new light on this traumatic but important subject. The seminar is free but bookings close today.

Presenter Kirsten Keith, a former legal officer for the prosecution at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, will explore the development of the protection of women from rape and other forms of sexual violence in the last 20 years.

Ms Keith, who now lives in Lismore, was part of the legal team that prosecuted Charles Taylor. In 2012, the former warlord was sentenced to 50 years in prison for his role in atrocities committed in Sierra Leone during the 1990s. (Taylor, the president of Liberia until 2003 was accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity as a result of his involvement in the Sierra Leone Civil War.)

Ms Keith, who is a specialist in international humanitarian law, also spent more than 10 years working for the prosecution at the international criminal trials for the former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda, both of which prosecuted and convicted perpetrators of sexual violence against women.

‘From Rwanda to the former Yugoslavia, from Berlin during World War II and Nanking under Japanese occupation, to Sierra Leone under Taylor, women and girls have been the victims of sexual violence in armed conflict,’ she says.

‘Women and girls are being caught up in armed conflicts with increasing regularity, with gender-based violence being used as a weapon of war to instill fear in the civilian population. As much as ever, states and parties to an armed conflict must do their utmost to uphold respect for the safety and dignity of women in wartime and ensure accountability for those committing such crimes.’

Australian Red Cross has a mandate under the Geneva Conventions to promote an understanding of, and respect for, international humanitarian law, or the laws of war. These laws aim to restrict the way wars are fought and protect those not involved in the fighting.

Women in War – Major Milestones in Prosecuting War Crimes, at Bangalow RSL, 13-15 Station St, Bangalow, Monday, 24 June, 1pm, free.

To register, email [email protected] or phone 02 6561 4000 today.


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