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Targeting Violence Aimed at Women in Conflicts

''Violence against women is not prosecuted because it is not a top government and urgent social priority,'' U.N. goodwill ambassador Nicole Kidman told U.S. lawmakers. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

On September twenty-eighth, security forces attacked unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators in Conakry, the capital of Guinea. Protesters were shot, beaten and stabbed. Human rights groups and witnesses say at least one hundred fifty-seven people were killed, a number disputed by the military government. But in addition to the killings, human rights groups say a similar number of female protesters were raped.

Sexual violence against women and girls has been widespread in Africa. But rape has been used as a weapon of war in the Balkans, Burma and Sri Lanka. The World Health Organization says one in three women around the world will experience some form of violence in their lifetime.

NTAMITONDE (TRANSLATED): "I feel pain in my heart. I cannot go back because of what they did to me. Three people raped me in front of my son."

Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo attacked this woman, took her clothes and burned her house. In August, American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised more than seventeen million dollars to fight sexual violence in the D.R.C.

But human rights groups say the United States must do more to help protect women and girls in developing countries. They want Congress to pass a measure called the International Violence Against Women Act. It would finance a five-year program to pay for health care and other services for victims. It would also provide training for local police in preventing violence against women.

The legislation was first proposed in two thousand seven by Joe Biden, then a senator, now the vice president. A group of lawmakers say they plan to propose it again soon.

This week, actress and United Nations goodwill ambassador Nicole Kidman spoke at a hearing in Congress.

NICOLE KIDMAN: "Violence against women is not prosecuted because it is not a top government and urgent social priority. We can change this."

On September thirtieth, the United Nations Security Council approved a third resolution against sexual violence in armed conflicts. Secretary Clinton chaired the meeting, held on the last day of the United States' month-long presidency of the council. She said the new resolution aims to give the United Nations and its members new tools to prevent violence and punish those responsible.

Among other things, it calls on the secretary-general to appoint a special representative to lead efforts to end sexual violence. The council also promised to consider information about such violence when establishing or renewing targeted sanctions in armed conflicts.

Also last month, the United Nations agreed to combine four agencies and offices into a single, stronger agency to work on women's issues. They will be combined under the U.N. Development Fund for Women, or UNIFEM. Widney Brown, senior director for policy at the human rights group Amnesty International, praised the move.

WIDNEY BROWN: "We have a central place in the U.N. where we can hopefully have the sort of political power and financial clout to actually have a real impact on women's lives in all the countries where the U.N. works."

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, available on the Web with transcripts and podcasts at I'm Steve Ember.