Madame President, Ministers, Ambassadors, honored guests; particularly the courageous survivors who have endured and persevered. I am proud to be here today to congratulate you, Madame President, for your transformative leadership to broach a topic as sensitive as survivors of rape during the war. Thanks to this effort, Kosovo and the world are aware of the plight of these survivors of wartime sexual violence. I applaud you for giving these heroines a voice, as well as ensuring they receive needed support.
I would also like to congratulate the Government of Kosovo and the Parliament for their work in developing legislation to include survivors of sexual violence as equal to other war veterans so they may also benefit from the law.
The United States considers the security of women and girls fundamental to strong and healthy societies. In Washington, we have devised a National Action Plan to ensure our policies actively promote the inclusion of women around the world. The Kosovo Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims has been our primary partner here in this effort. The center has provided counseling, legal assistance, medication, and treatment for several years to address the needs of survivors of sexual violence and torture as well as encourage their economic development. I am delighted that USAID’s Empower Private Sector Support Program helped to train 15 survivors through this center and also helped some of them find employment.
Our cooperation does not end there. In August 2015, spouses of members of the United States Congress visited the Center for the Promotion of Women’s Rights Workshop in Glogovc/Glogovac municipality and met with survivors of sexual violence. Our visitors told us afterwards that meeting those women was the single most important and inspiring part of their visit to Kosovo. Indeed, the injustice suffered by these women, as well as some men, was the main topic of conversation with the Members of Congress at a lunch with the Women’s Caucus later that day. These survivors are emblematic of Kosovo’s struggle to rebuild and prosper despite enormous challenges.
I applaud the work of the National Council for the Survivors of Sexual Violence During the War. The conclusion of this stage is another important step in the healing process. Reconciliation and long-term stability will only be possible when society learns to deal with the legacy of sexual violence in war and when those guilty of such horrible crimes are brought to justice. I encourage the Ministry of Justice and Special Prosecutors to continue their efforts
There is still more that government, civil society, international organizations, and the public can do. First, we must recognize that the victims of these crimes deserve no blame. The survivors deserve justice and respect, not shame. Second, we must support the survivors as they rebuild their lives. They have sacrificed for Kosovo and they are entitled to such assistance.
Secretary Kerry has said that “nothing should give us more hope than the example of those who have survived sexual violence and found courage in their own recovery.” Let us take the strength of these heroines as an example for the whole country.