Australia has joined an international statement condemning the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.
The UK-led statement condemns sexual violence and rape as a “red line” akin to the use of chemical weapons during war.
“We are determined to strengthen the international response and build a new consensus to prevent these atrocities,” the statement says.
Signatories to the statement have agreed to investigate the possibility of a new international convention.
Foreign minister Marise Payne said a rise in gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated existing threats for women and children caught up in conflicts and humanitarian crises.
“Australia is working through United Nations and ASEAN forums to help secure justice for survivors of gender-based violence in Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Myanmar,” Payne said.
“Australia also continues to call for an end to a culture of silence that prevents survivors from speaking out and securing justice.”
The UK has committed to hosting a global summit next year addressing preventions for sexual violence in conflict.
Canada, New Zealand, Indonesia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia and Liberia also signed the joint statement.
Nobel Peace Prize-winning Congolese gynecologist Dr Denis Mukwege wrote in a G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council report released in October that tactics of pillaging and starvation and the use of certain weapons — including landmines and chemical weapons — were universally prohibited in war.
“Yet, left behind has been the use of sexual violence as a method of warfare,” Mukwege said.
He said a proposed international convention to denounce the use of sexual violence as a method of warfare should include clear legal obligations that increase the costs for individuals and governments failing to act, as well as emphasising a shared responsibility.