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Reuters, Published April 19 2013

Hot Topics: Babies as young as six months victims of rape in war, UN envoy says

In her first seven months as U.N. envoy on sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura has visited a Congolese district where rebels raped babies, and Somalia where a woman was paid $150 restitution for the rape of her 4-year-old daughter.

She met a refugee at a camp in Kenya who had been raped at gunpoint when she was eight-months-pregnant while gathering firewood and a Somali father who was fighting for justice for his daughters, aged 4 and 6, who had both been raped.

“The stories are horrific and heartbreaking and when these survivors tell you what they endured, and continue to endure, you know that one person raped in war is one too many,” said Bangura, who briefed the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday.

She told the 15-member council it was still largely “cost-free” to rape a woman, child or man in conflict and that this must be reversed to make it a “massive liability to commit, command or condone sexual violence in conflict.”

Any future peace and ceasefire deals in conflicts like Syria and Mali must include sexual violence prevention, Bangura said. Bangura, a former health minister of Sierra Leone, said she plans to visit Syria, Mali and South Sudan as soon as possible.

“I visited a community where last year 11 babies, between 6 and 12 months old, were raped by elements of Mai Mai Morgan,” she said, referring to a rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “It is unimaginable that anyone could have committed such an atrocity.”

Bangura also told reporters that in the same community – the Ituri district in turbulent eastern Congo on its border with Uganda – 59 children aged between 1 and 3, and 182 children between 5 and 15 years old had been raped last year.

“Under the cold light of strategy and tactics, the rationale and purpose is clear. What more effective way can there be to destroy a community than to target and devastate its children?” she told the Security Council.