Actress and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie is joining forces with U.K. officials this week, launching an effort to end a dark tactic found in nearly every country’s military history— rape as a weapon of war. The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict begins June 10 in London, and is the first international conference to combat sexual crimes.
The U.N. estimates that more than 60,000 women were raped during Sierra Leone’s civil war between 1991-2002, more than 40,000 in Liberia between 1989-2003, between 100,000 and 250,000 in Rwanda in 1994 during three months of genocide, and at least 200,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1998, according to NBC.
“Rape is used as a tool of war because it is so destructive and because the perpetrators get away with it,” Jolie said in March at a Bosnia conference to address the issue. “It often involves gang-rape, torture, and mutilation. It is carried out in the presence of the [victim’s] relatives, in order to break families apart.”
Lauren Wolfe, director of the journalism project Women Under Siege, which has documented decades of wartime rape, says little has changed over the years because of prejudice against rape victims based upon culture and religion. “Most victims cannot expect support or to see a prosecution. The most likely outcome would be stigma, even within families,” Wolfe said.
This week’s global summit aims to change that.
Inviting officials from about 150 nations, Jolie and British Foreign Secretary William Hague are aiming to end the use of rape during wartime, which has existed in conflicts ranging from the American Civil War to present-day Syria.
NBC also reported that summit delegates “will be reminded that the problem is not limited to tribal conflict or in areas with limited education.”
Jolie’s co-host, Foreign Secretary Hague, wrote an article in The London Sunday Times stating that the U.N. will call “for all soldiers and peacekeepers to be trained to understand and prevent war-zone sexual violence.” Hague also wrote that they will ask countries to update their legislature on rape and sexual violence if they do not already align with international law.
The summit consists of three days of free, public events at London’s ExCel convention center alongside formal U.N. meetings exploring women’s rights, conflict prevention, children affected by the issue, men and boys, international justice, and more.
“We want the impact of the summit to be felt around the world,” Jolie said to NBC. “So that far from any court or judge men with guns will think twice before using rape as a weapon.”