The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture: A Crucial Step Towards Empowering Women and Girls in Conflict.
Tsedenia Gigar Getaneh
Women’s Rights Researcher,
Global Human Rights Defense.
‘’Torturers must never be allowed to get away with their crimes, and systems that enable torture should be dismantled or transformed.’’ - By UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres.
The United Nations General Assembly, through resolution 52/149 on 12 December 1997, designated 26 June as the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This significant date stands for the entry into force of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading treatment or Punishment (CAT) in 1987. This convention stands as a crucial instrument in the global effort to combat torture. (Sumit Arora, June 26, 2023)
Moreover, the international day in support of victims of torture aims to rally global support for the eradication of torture. On this day, all stakeholders, including UN Member States, civil society, and individuals worldwide, unite to show solidarity with the countless victims of torture and advocate for their rights. (UDHR June 26, 2017)
- The Inhumanity of Torture and its Violation of Human Dignity:
Torture is a crime recognized and condemned under international law. It is strictly prohibited and cannot be justified under any circumstances. This Prohibition is considered a fundamental principle of customary international law, meaning that it applies to all nations, regardless of their ratification status of specific treaties explicitly outlawing torture. The perpetration of torture on a systematic or widespread scale is regarded as a crime against humanity. (UN, June 26, 2023)
According to CAT the term "torture" refers to any deliberate infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering on a person. This can include acts carried out with the intention of extracting information or a confession from the victim or a third party, punishing them for their own actions or those of others, intimidating or coercing them, or perpetuating discrimination in any form. Crucially, pain or suffering that arises solely from lawfulness. (CAT Convention, December 10, 1984)
- Healing through rehabilitation
Recovery from torture requires prompt and specialized programs. The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, administered by the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva, acts as a distinctive mechanism, prioritizing victim-focused initiatives and providing crucial funding for legal, social, humanitarian, psychological and medical services. The fund caters to various groups, including human rights defenders, persons deprived of liberty, children and adolescents, refugees and migrants, victims of enforced disappearance, indigenous peoples, victims of sexual and gender-based violence, and LGBTI individuals. (UN, June 26, 2023)
- Gendered Impact of Torture in Conflict:
Women and Girls are particularly vulnerable to the direct impact of torture, especially in times of conflict. In conflict zones, women and girl often face unique forms of violence, including sexual abuse, physical torture, and psychological trauma.
The observance of this day highlights the impact of torture on women and girls survivors and underscores the urgent need for gender-responsive approaches in combating this grave violation of human rights. (UN, June 26, 2023)
The following points highlights the direct impact on women and girls in conflicts:
- Gender-Based Violence: Torture inflicted upon women and girls often includes specific form of gender-based violence, such as sexual abuse and humiliation. This day provides a platform to denounce and address the gender-specific aspects of torture, shedding light on the unique experiences faced by female survivors.
- Raising Awareness and Breaking the Silence: By dedicating a day to support victims of torture, the international community encourages dialogue, education, and awareness-raising initiatives to break the silence surrounding gender-based violence and torture inflicted upon women and girls in conflict.
- Ensuring Justice and Accountability: The international Day in Support of Victims of Torture emphasizes the importance of justice and accountability for perpetrators of torture, with specific attention to addressing gender-specific crimes. It underscores the need for legal frameworks that protect the rights of women and girls survivors, ensure prosecution, and provide redress and reparations.
- Rehabilitation and Support Services: Recovery from torture requires prompt and specialized programs. Rehabilitation centers and organizations worldwide demonstrate that women and girls who have endured torture in conflict can transition to healing. The UN Voluntary fund for Victims of Torture plays a crucial role by providing funding and support to organizations offering legal, social, humanitarian, psychological and medical services to survivors and their families.
- Combating impunity and Breaking Cycles of Violence: The international Day in Support of Victims of Torture strengthens efforts to combat impunity and prevent the recurrence of torture against women and girls. It advocates for gender equality, addresses the root causes of gender-based violence, and promotes the protection of women’s rights in conflict and post-conflict contexts.
- Empowering Women and Girls: By addressing the unique impact of torture on women and girls, this day fosters international cooperation, encourages advocacy, and promotes collective action to empower survivors. It supports gender-responsive approaches that promote healing, resilience, and the full participation of women and girls in society.
Championing the Rights of Survivors and Building a Future Free from Pain!
The international day in support of victims of torture serves as a global platform to condemn torture, advocate for the rights of survivors, and promote the eradication of this heinous crime. On this international day, let us stand together to denounce torture in all its forms, advocate for the rights of victims, and actively stive for a world where torture has no place. We must focus on safeguarding and promoting the well-being of women and girls, especially in conflict situations, as we endeavor to create a future free from devastating impact of torture.
Sources and further readings:
- Sumit Arora (June 26,2023). United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture: Date and History.Adda24/7-Current Affairs, Retrieved June 28, 2023, from https://currentaffairs.adda247.com/united-nations-international-day-in-support-of-victims-of-torture-date-and-history/
- United Nations Fund for Victims of Torture & United Nations Human Rights (June 26, 2017): 26 June International Day in Support of Victim of Torture, Retrieved June 28, 2023, fromhttps://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/Documents/Issues/Torture/IntDay/2017/26JuneVirtualBrochure.pdf
- United Nations (June 26, 2023): International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, 26 June, Retrieved June 29, 2023, from https://www.un.org/en/observances/torture-victims-day
- United Nations Human Rights; Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (10 December 1984)- By General Assembly resolution 39/46, Retrieved June 30, 2023 from https://www.ohchr.org/en/instruments-mechanisms/instruments/convention-against-torture-and-other-cruel-inhuman-or-degrading