Five Iranian armed groups have become the first to sign up to new covenant aimed at reducing sexual violence in conflict situations, a pledge developed by Geneva-based NGO Geneva Call.
The five Iranian groups - the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, the Komala Party of Kurdistan, the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, the Komalah Kurdistan Organization of the Communist Party of Iran and the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iran - signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment for the Prohibition of Sexual Violence in Situations of Armed Conflict and Towards the Elimination of Gender Discrimination and the Deed of Commitment for the Protection of Children from the Effects of Armed Conflict on 14 December.
There is currently a ceasefire with the armed groups, although their military wings remain on standby.
Against sexual violence
Aurélie Lamazière, Geneva Call’s gender issues coordinator, told IRIN the armed groups were receptive to signing the deed on sexual violence as they already had in place policies against such abuses. But they were also committing themselves to promoting greater participation of women in all decision-making structures rather than just those concerned with “women’s issues.”
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The signing followed two years of negotiations.
Geneva Call said in a statement the deed “focuses on ANSAs [armed non-state actors] and sexual violence in the context of armed conflict, yet it can be hoped that signing the Deed may also have some positive indirect influence on the problem of domestic violence.”
Among the 14 terms in the deed are an “absolute prohibition of sexual violence against any person, whether civilian, member of State armed forces or member of an armed Non-State actor,” and a commitment “to provide victims of sexual violence with the assistance and support they require in order to address the impact of such violence.”
Promoting humanitarian principles
Geneva Call developed deeds of commitment as a tool for armed groups to subscribe to humanitarian norms during conflicts. Since 2000, 42 armed groups have signed deeds banning the use of land mines; the state-bias of the Mine Ban Treaty excludes such groups as signatories.
Lamazière said that using armed groups that had already subscribed to deeds of commitment proved a useful entry point as “trust has already been established.” The five Iranian armed groups that signed the deeds have also signed Geneva Call’s Adherence to a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines and for Cooperation in Mine Action.
The NGO has held discussions with DRC authorities and received the “green light” to engage armed groups about sexual violence and the protection of children during conflict, including prohibition of the use of child soldiers, with the aim of them to sign the deeds.
Sexual violence has been rampant in DRC, and armed groups use child soldiers extensively.