The Role of Youth in Ending Sexual Violence and Human Trafficking

In celebration of the inaugural World Day Against Trafficking of Persons, I wanted to recap my experiences from the earlier part of this summer where I was able to learn about the steps countries are taking to end sexual violence and to promote sexual rights. For part of this summer, I had the incredible opportunity to the 26th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

The 26th Session of the Human Rights Council discussed, debated, and recommended resolutions for a multitude of issues. However, one issue in particular that stuck out to me was the “#TimeToAct” campaign and other sexual rights-related resolutions. #TimetoAct is committed to ending sexual violence in conflict areas.

During my time at the 26th Session of the Human Rights Council, I had the opportunity to sit in and listen to discussions pertaining to the most effective strategies that should be utilized for ending sexual violence in conflict areas. The first Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict took place in London on 10-13 June 2014, concurrent with the 26th Session of the Human Rights Council. Countries were urged to “strengthen their domestic laws so that those responsible for sexual violence in conflict can be reliably prosecuted both in and outside the countries where they committed their appalling crimes.” There were also recommendations to create and introduce laws that “support the aims and objections of the International Criminal Court.” In particular, focus was also placed on ending sexual violence among women through practical steps that include the calling for “all soldiers and peacekeepers to be trained not only to understand the gravity of sexual violence in conflict, but to prevent it and to protect people.” [1]

During my time at the Human Rights Council, I was also able to learn about various ways in which youth globally are working hard to promote the sexual rights of people.  Having volunteered against sexual violence during my undergraduate years at the University of Chicago through R.S.V.P (Resources for Sexual Violence Prevention), it was amazing to see all the unique and fascinating tactics that youth, globally, are utilizing to provide innovative solutions for ending sexual violence. Many youth attended the 26th Session of the Human Rights Council and the Summit in London, and they blogged about their experiences.

Many youth spent their summer volunteering with the United Nations abroad on fellowship programs in order to help market and promote the #TimetoAct campaign. Furthermore, many youth, like myself, took pictures holding signs encouraging the ending of sexual violence in conflict areas and promoting this powerful image through social media. Ultimately I learned that, as with any issue, youth have a powerful voice and can use social media and technology to empower people throughout the world.