Hollywood actress, activist and United Nations Special Envoy Angelina Jolie today called for concerted action to end once and for all the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war.
"It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict," Ms. Jolie stated in her address to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, which opened in London and brings together over 900 experts, non-governmental organizations, survivors, faith leaders and international organizations from around the globe.
The three-day summit, co-chaired by Ms. Jolie and Foreign Secretary William Hague of the United Kingdom, aims to create momentum against sexual violence in conflict and practical action that impacts those on the ground.
"There is nothing inevitable about it," said Ms. Jolie, who is the Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). "It is a weapon of war, aimed at civilians. It has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with power. It is done to torture and humiliate innocent people, often very young children."
She noted that the subject itself has been taboo for far too long. "Warzone rape is a crime that thrives on silence and denial. The stigma harms survivors, it causes feelings of shame and worthlessness. It feeds ignorance, such as the notion that rape has anything to do with normal sexual impulses.
"But most of all, it allows rapists to get away with it," she stated, stressing the need to shatter that culture of impunity and make justice the norm, not the exception, for these crimes.
"We need political will, replicated across the world, and we need to treat this subject as a priority. We need to see real commitment to go after the worst perpetrators, to fund proper protection for vulnerable people, and to step in and help the worst-affected countries. We need all armies, peacekeeping troops and police forces to have prevention of sexual violence in conflict as part of their training."
The Summit, she added, must be a turning point in addressing sexual violence in conflict.
"We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence, that the shame is with the aggressor," she stated. "We must work together in new and unprecedented ways - across borders, religions, bringing governments and people together, and tackling the problem in every possible.
"By doing these things, we can end the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war once and for all. We can do it."
The Global Summit, which runs through 13 June and is being co-chaired by Ms. Jolie and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, will be addressed tomorrow by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, and Zainab Hawa Bangura, UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.