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Sexual Violence (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 11th June 2008.

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Photo of John Barrett John Barrett Shadow Minister, International Development, Shadow Minister, Work & Pensions 11:30 am, 11th June 2008

What projects his Department is undertaking to seek to reduce levels of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

The UK Government programme to tackle sexual and gender-based violence includes £2 million of support to eastern DRC to promote justice, and £4 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The UK also funds medical and psycho-social care for victims, and we are working to reform the security and justice sector.

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Photo of John Barrett John Barrett Shadow Minister, International Development, Shadow Minister, Work & Pensions

Rape has been used a weapon of war in the Congo, but now general lawlessness has broken out throughout the country. What can the Department do to strengthen the judicial system there and to make sure that women are a key part of that system?

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Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

The hon. Gentleman is quite right that rape is used as a weapon of war, but it has now gone beyond that in the DRC. It is used to humiliate and terrify, tearing up families and communities. We are working on a major programme to reform the security and justice sector. We need a well-run, trusted and accountable police force, army and supporting civil service; we are ensuring that victims also support the legal process; we are training magistrates; and we are lobbying for more prosecutions.

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Photo of Ann McKechin Ann McKechin Labour, Glasgow North

My hon. Friend— [Interruption.]

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Photo of Ann McKechin Ann McKechin Labour, Glasgow North

My hon. Friend will be aware that it is absolutely essential that women are involved in any solutions to achieve security in areas such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The United Kingdom has been ahead of the game in having a national plan on United Nations Security Council resolution 1325, but as yet, none of the international forces, either at NATO or UN level, has such a plan. Will my hon. Friend persuade international forces that now is the time to prepare a UN plan on Security Council resolution 1325?

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Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

We will certainly continue our efforts. I agree with my hon. Friend that what we see in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are some of the highest rates of sexual violence against women and girls in the world, so our commitment to tackling the issue is absolutely crucial. Underlying all that is our dealing with the root causes of the conflict and addressing the humanitarian situation there. In all those ways, we also seek to empower women to take control over their own lives.

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Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin

Although I welcome the arrest of former Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, will the Minister commit the British Government to working closely with the International Criminal Court to ensure that others in Kinshasa, and also Bangui, are brought before the court?

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Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

I certainly will draw those comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary

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