Angelina Jolie Opens Our Eyes To Rape In Warzones

Sameera Ehteram
Angelina Jolie opened the first annual Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict with a powerful speech that everyone must hear.

The Hollywood star, who is also the envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, co-chaired the four-day summit in London with the British foreign secretary William Hague.

 She addressed the extremely sensitive issue in front of more than 300 international government ministers.

“It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict,” she said. “There is nothing inevitable about it. It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians. It is nothing to do with sex, everything to do with power. It is done to torture and humiliate people, and often to very young children.”

Women in conflict zones not only suffer through death and destruction, but also face the very real threat of sexual violence.

“Rape is a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear,”
says Susan Brownmiller in Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape.

Perhaps no one can describe sexual violence against women in times of conflict better than Susan, who is the first historian to research and document an overview of rape in war.

"War provides men with the perfect psychological backdrop to give vent to their contempt for women. The maleness of the military—the brute power of weaponry exclusive to their hands, the spiritual bonding of men at arms, the manly discipline of orders given and orders obeyed, the simple logic of the hierarchical command—confirms for men what they long suspect—that women are peripheral to the world that counts," she writes.

From conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina to Peru, Kashmir, Palestine and Rwanda, females have been targeted for rape, imprisonment, torture, prostitution and human trafficking.

According to UNICEF, “Systematic rape is often used as a weapon of war in 'ethnic cleansing'.”

It goes on to detail such an event in history, “Teenage girls have been a particular target in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, according to The State of the World's Children 1996 report. The report also says that impregnated girls have been forced to bear 'the enemy's' child. “

United Nations Security Council has also noted that “women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instill fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.”

And then there is the shame and stigma that the victim has to suffer; not to mention the psychological trauma and/or sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

“In some raids in Rwanda, virtually every adolescent girl who survived an attack by the militia was subsequently raped. Many of those who became pregnant were ostracized by their families and communities. Some abandoned their babies; others committed suicide,” said the UN report.

Addressing the very issue, Jolie said,"We must send a message across the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence - the shame is on the aggressor."

The summit will hopefully bring much needed attention to this perturbing issue. The intention, as Mr. Hague said, “Is to draw up a “new international protocol” for the prosecution of rape and sexual abuse in times of conflict.

However, there has been a lot of talk over this horrifying crime, and it is about time that all the talk is followed by definitive action.

Here’s hoping it’s sooner rather than later.