United Kingdom: Global Summit Calls for End to Sexual Violence in Conflict
More than 1,200 government leaders, lawyers, activists and sexual violence survivors from 120 countries attended the world’s first Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict from June 10 – 13, 2014, in London. Attendees signed a Statement of Action declaring that “sexual violence is not an inevitable consequence of war or a lesser crime,” and pledging that “from this day forward, the shame of those crimes should be firmly on those who commit them, not their victims.”
According to the UN, one in five women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape, and every warzone, international or non-international, has reported violence against women related to armed conflict. Attending countries at the conference included several that have experienced widespread sexual violence, including Bosnia, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Denis Mukwege, a doctor who runs a hospital for rape victims in the DRC, equated the use of rape in war with chemical weapons, explaining that rape does more than harm individuals, but harms the nation as a whole by tearing apart families, spreading HIV, and even affecting food supplies when farm-owners flee for safety. The UK Chair’s Summary outlined action plans specifically developed for Somalia and the DRC, and emphasized the international community’s commitment to support these countries' efforts toward combating rampant sexual violence.
During the summit, UN Women and OHCHR unveiled a new UN Guidance on the effective delivery of reparations to victims of conflict related sexual violence. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie introduced a protocol that would improve documentation, investigation, and prosecution of violations; improve support for victims; integrate reforms into police and military training; and improve international co-operation to change attitudes about the issue. Jolie and Hague previously launched the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in 2013, which has been signed by over 150 countries.
Some have criticized the UK for hosting the conference while its own government has allegedly mishandled wartime refugee cases in its own jurisdiction by using improper interviewing techniques, failing to believe victims’ stories of sexual violence, and allowing long wait times for asylum status. UK Foreign SecretaryHague commented that immigration officials in his country will need to be trained on dealing with sexual violence victims seeking asylum, and noted that a new action plan for the UK had been announced the week before the summit. In the United States, a bill that calls for a global strategy to address violence against women (the International Violence Against Women Act) is currently awaiting approval in both houses of Congress.
Compiled from: Goldsmith, Belinda, U.S. Joins Jolie's Call to End Use of Rape in War, Chicago Tribune (June 13, 2014); McVeigh, Tracy, Rape Summit in London Sparks Charge of 'Hypocrisy,' The Guardian Observer (June 7, 2014); Batha, Emily, Rape in War as Destructive as Chemical Weapons – Congolese Doctor, Thomson Reuters Foundation (June 10, 2014). Can The World Stop the Culture of Violence Against Women?, Aljazeera America (June 11, 2014); UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Chair’s Summary: Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, UK Government (June 13, 2014); Angelina Jolie: We Can Eradicate Warzone Sex Crime, BBC (June 10, 2014).