Angelina Jolie has joined British foreign secretary William Hague to launch a four-day summit vowing to put an end to rape as a weapon of war and eliminate the “culture of impunity”.
Opening the four-day summit in London earlier this week, Jolie, a special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said global political action was needed to treat sexual violence as a priority and tackle a culture of impunity.
“It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict. It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians … done to torture and humiliate people and often to very young children,” she said.
“We need to see real commitment and go after the worst perpetrators, to fund proper protection for vulnerable people, and to step in to help the worst-affected countries.”
“Wartime rape is a crime that thrives on silence and denial,” she added. “We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence, that the shame is on the aggressor.”
A two-year campaign by Hague and Jolie to push practical action to punish those responsible for sexual assault was sparked in 2011 after Jolie’s directorial debut In the Land of Blood and Honey, based on the Bosnian war in the 1990s, when approximately 50,000 women were raped. None of the women received justice, according to Hague.
They launched a declaration in 2012 which has been signed by almost 150 governments, pledging a commitment to end sexual violence in conflict.
The summit will be attended by up to 1,200 high-level foreign delegates from 117 countries, including US secretary of State John Kerry. It follows a series of violent incidents that has raised global pressure to act against sexual violence, including the kidnapping of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls and the gang rape of two Indian women.
The event, which is the biggest of its kind, aims to take practical and concrete steps to improve the lives of victims and establish best practise for obtaining witness testimony of crimes of sexual violence in conflict, including strengthening laws in countries where sexual violence is widespread, training armies and peacekeepers, and increasing funding to help survivors.