Robin Barnett

Robin Barnett

Former Ambassador to Ireland, Dublin

Part of FCDO Human Rights UK in Poland

25th November 2012 Dublin, Ireland

Preventing sexual violence including in armed conflict

The following is a guest post by Stana Buchowska PhD on the serious issues of human trafficking and violence against women.

It is an admirable analysis of a complex problem. Let me add a word on our Foreign Minister’s initiative on preventing sexual violence in armed conflict. When we think of armed conflict, we think first of soldiers and tanks. But war is also about civilians, all too often women and children, who end up caught up in warfare.

Rape and other forms of sexual violence have been used against women in conflicts across the world, including here in Europe in places like Bosnia and Kosovo. Yet only some 30 people have been convicted in Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite an estimated 50,000 rapes during the war there.

The Foreign Secretary wants to end the culture of relative impunity around those who use sexual violence against men, women and children. We want to see far more successful prosecutions against those who commit such dreadful crimes. So we have set up a new UK team of experts, including police, lawyers and forensic scientists who can be deployed at short notice to help gather evidence to support investigations and prosecutions.

It will support UN and other international missions and help provide mentoring and training.

We want to raise awareness globally so we will use Britain’s Presidency of the G8 starting on 1 January 2013 to run a year-long diplomatic campaign on preventing sexual violence in armed conflict. We will be engaging with Polish authorities and NGOs as part of this.

Stana Buchowska PhD, co-founder of the La Strada Foundation, which has worked against human trafficking and slavery in Poland since 1995.

Stana Buchowska

Her main areas of work and expertise include co-ordination of major projects implemented by La Strada, networking on the national and international level, development and implementation of training programs especially for law enforcement representatives, social service providers and NGOs. Stana Buchowska currently works for ECPAT UK as Co-ordinator of the ‘Parliamentarians Against Human Trafficking’ project.

Reading my newspaper in the tube daily, I cannot actually recall a day without the headline news referring to a case of violence against women.  Stories of violence are about rich and poor, well established, local women and migrants, well educated and poorly educated, all different races, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

It is interesting to observe, however, that in cases when violence is perpetrated against  rich and famous women, the media become more responsive and the public opinion  – which is created  and strongly influenced by the media –  seems to be more moved or shocked and more willing to see the problem when it affects the crème de la crème.  But if we’re talking about violence against women coming from marginalized groups – migrants, ethnic minorities, unemployed or homeless – the public often seems to be less interested.

Dealing with the issue of human trafficking, it often comes to my mind how deeply human trafficking is interwoven with violence against women. This is, in most cases, a cause and a consequence of trafficking. Before women and children become victims of trafficking, they are often victims of domestic violence.

Being trafficked they are suffering all forms of violence, physical, psychological, sexual. Violence against women is one of the factors conducive to trafficking. Women and children who are suffering violence from their families and relatives are more likely to became victims of trafficking, because they are lacking  safety in their homes and families, and therefore  are looking for possibilities to leave the abusive and violent environment.

After suffering from violence, every offer, every false promise from the recruiters and traffickers seems to be a good chance and opportunity to leave and to escape from the oppressive situation. Victims of violence are more prone to trafficking.  Being responsive to the promises of a better life, they do not realise that they will end up in a similar if not worse situation.

The vicious circle comes full circle. We need to understand and address violence against women in the context of human trafficking and, vice versa, human trafficking in the context of domestic violence. Having the full picture of this will help us to break the vicious cycle and get to its roots.

About Robin Barnett

Robin Barnett was British Ambassador to Ireland from 2016 to 2020. Between 2011 - 2016 he held the post of British Ambassador to Poland and his career has previously concentrated…

Robin Barnett was British Ambassador to Ireland from 2016 to 2020. Between 2011 - 2016 he held the post of British Ambassador to Poland and his career has previously concentrated on Central and Eastern Europe and multi-lateral diplomacy.

Robin began his career in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1980 as Desk Officer for Indonesia and the Philippines. In addition to Ireland, he has been posted to Vienna, New York and Bucharest, where he was Ambassador. He has also served as Director of UK Visas and Managing Director of the Business Group in UK Trade and Investment

Robin studied Law at Birmingham University. He has a son and a stepson and is a great admirer of Sir Alex Ferguson and a supporter of Manchester United.