Concy’s story is an example of trafficking, sexual exploitation and sexual violence in a conflict situation. The issue of rape and other forms of sexual violence in conflict has been receiving increased attention in recent years from the media and advocacy groups, as well as from international and regional organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and the Group of 8 (G8). The United Kingdom is currently leading efforts to develop an international protocol on the investigation and documentation of rape and sexual violence in conflict.

In addition, the UN Human Rights Council—an inter-governmental body within the UN system responsible for strengthening the promotion of human rights around the world and addressing violations—passed a recent resolution addressing various forms of violence and abuse in conflict situations.

The resolution emphasizes the need for States and relevant UN agencies to ensure that measures to protect ‘victims and witnesses of rape and other forms of sexual violence’ address the specific needs of those ‘most vulnerable to these forms of violence (…) including women and girls forcibly recruited by armed forces and armed non-State actors, and trafficked women and girls, including those forced into sexual exploitation and slavery’. The resolution also emphasizes that States must take all necessary measures to protect women and girls from violence also in times of unrest, and they must ensure that such acts are ‘promptly and effectively investigated and, if grounds for it are established, prosecuted’, regardless of whether the violence was committed by State or non-State actors.

This resolution is an important acknowledgement of the occurrence of trafficking and sexual exploitation in conflict situations, and their links to rape and other forms of sexual violence. It is also a reminder of the need for States to do more to prevent these human rights violations, protect victims and investigate and prosecute abuses.