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Outgoing UNICEF Chief Wants Governments to Prosecute Rape as War Crime

The outgoing director of the United Nations Children's Fund, Carol Bellamy, says sexual violence has soared in spite of commitments made 10 years ago at the United Nations' Fourth Conference on Women in Beijing, China. Ms. Bellamy made her comments on the opening day of two weeks of events to review progress made by women since the Beijing Conference.

Ms. Bellamy says she has been accused of being a radical feminist many times since she began her tenure at UNICEF 10 years ago because of her emphasis on the plight of women and girls around the world. But as the United Nations marks the 10th anniversary of the Beijing Conference, Ms. Bellamy says it is important to note areas where progress has been limited or reversed.

"During the past two decades, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of rape and sexual violence as a deliberate tactic of war, a way of demoralizing and humiliating the enemy and destabilizing the entire community," she said. "In situations of armed conflict, girls and women are routinely raped, trafficked, used in prostitution, held by armed groups in sexual slavery, mutilated and forced to carry pregnancies. And we have barely begun to talk about it."

Ms. Bellamy says in conflicts across the globe, apathetic governments ignore sexual violence and perpetrators go unpunished. She says the situation will not change until leaders are held accountable.

Ms. Bellamy, who steps down as UNICEF head on April 1, says speaking for the world's most marginalized people is part of her job.

She also also took a swipe at the United Nations itself for appointing too few women to senior positions.