Angelina Jolie Hosts Landmark Summit To End Rape In Conflict Zones

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In December 2013 we brought you news about a revolutionary first-of-its-kind summit that was being launched by Academy Award-winning actress and humanitarian extraordinaire, Angelina Jolie. Well this week it finally took place in London, and Angelina co-hosted the End Sexual Violence in Conflict summit with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

It is a revolutionary summit because there has never been a conference of its size dedicated to this one topic of eradicating, prosecuting and preventing rape from happening in war zones.

Delegates from over 100 countries gathered to talk about solutions, and hear some heart-breaking stories from survivors and those close to them. Angelina Jolie was visibly moved by some of the testimonies given by women who have endured some horrific experiences.

The gathering included government officials, activists, non-profit representatives and diplomats, who came to hear Angelina and William Hague talk on this issue.

“It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict. There’s nothing inevitable about it. It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians. It has nothing to do with sex, everything to do with power.”

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According to the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, more than 150 million young girls and 73 million boys experience sexual violence every year, and children in conflict-affected countries are the most vulnerable.

Yet shockingly few perpetrators are ever prosecuted or convicted.

“They feel above the law because the law rarely touches them and society tolerates them,” she said.

“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,” she said, to cheers from the audience. “We need to shatter that culture of impunity.”

Hague compared sexual violence in war zones to slavery as an injustice that demands action.

“As was said with slavery in the 18th century, now we know the facts, we cannot turn aside,” he said.

“We want people around the world to understand the scale of the problem and the urgent need for action, to recognize the damage it does to international peace and security and to be mobilized and inspired to work within their societies and with us to bear down on this terrible injustice,” he said.

Elsewhere in Europe, Pope Francis who has joined forces with Anglican and Muslim leaders across Europe to fight human trafficking echoed his support of this summit.

“Let us pray for all victims of sexual violence in conflict, and those working to end this crime.”

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Both Angelina and William created a guidance document which they presented at the Summit, which they hope will be a valuable tool for governments to use in terms of awareness of the issue of rape in war zones, and allow them to set up viable legislation where these crimes will no longer go unpunished.

The mother of 6 and wife of Brad Pitt also made special mention to a conflict zone assault victim whom she and William had recently met in Bosnia.

“She felt that having had no justice for her particular crime, in her particular situation, and having seen the actual man who raped her on the streets free, she really felt abandoned by the world,” Jolie said. “This day is for her.”

Aside from her appearance at this all-important summit, Angelina made an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Women’s Hour’ program to talk further about why this issue needs to be tackled now.

The show mentioned that in 1992 the UN Security Council officially acknowledged how rape is being used as a weapon of war, and it is an international crime which must be addressed. A statute by the International Criminal Court enforced since July 2002 includes rape, sexual slavery, or any form of sexual violence as a crime against humanity. Yet despite these laws, the crimes continue to happen and go unpunished. That is why Angelina, who is also a United Nations Special Envoy, has been campaigning hard about this issue.

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Angelina tells BBC Radio that to make a difference and change the situation of conflict zone rape, you have to have force and strength, rather than just be emotional about it and feel moved. How do everyday people have force? How to victims of sexual crimes have a voice and feel empowered to act upon justice?

This can only happen when various levels of power come together to protect, prevent and educate people on issues that are a crime against humanity.

“In order to get something done, you must work with someone who can enforce the laws,” she says. This is why government intervention is vital.

We are astounded and saddened that it is only in 2014 that a summit of this kind is being held, when in our recent history we have seen some of the most horrific wars and conflicts, some of which are happening right now. But at the same time it is inspiring to know that there are people willing to use their positions of power, influence and celebrity as a form of currency, and work to change the injustices which have gone for far too long.

While we may not all be powerful people able to make changes to a country’s legislation, we have a voice thanks to social media. We can all play our part by using the hashtag #timeotact to spread awareness throughout our own communities about the issue of conflict-zone rape and show governments that we the people urge them to act on our behalf!

Hear Angelina Jolie’s opening speech at the summit, and talking more about the impact they hope to achieve:


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