The G8 today pledged £23million towards tackling sexual violence in conflict zones around the world. The Foreign Secretary William Hague said that part of the funding would go into training the military to respond to conflict sexual violence and that the training would be extended to peacekeeping groups of other nations. Members of armed forces are often the first to come into contact with survivors and it is hoped that they could have an important role to play in helping to change male attitudes.
In his speech at Lancaster House in London today, Hague said:
“We know that tens of thousands of women were raped in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s, hundreds of thousands in Rwanda’s genocide, and up to a quarter of a million in the Democratic Republic of Congo over the last decade. We know that a huge number of the victims of sexual violence are children: often very young children and sometimes babies.
“We know that this violence inflicts unimaginable suffering, destroys families and communities, and fuels conflict.Yet the overwhelming majority of survivors never see any justice for what they have endured. And there has never been any concerted international effort, supported by leading nations of the world, to eradicate sexual violence in conflict in the first place. This has to change. To my mind, this cause is the slave trade of our generation.”
Angelina Jolie added:
“Time and again the world has failed to prevent this abuse, or to hold attackers accountable.
“Rape has been treated as something that simply happens in war; perpetrators have learnt that they can get away with it; and victims have been denied justice. But wartime rape is not inevitable. This violence can be prevented, and it must be confronted.
“There are many individuals and NGOs who have worked tirelessly to address these crimes for years. But the international political will has been sorely lacking. I have heard survivors of rape from Bosnia to the Democratic Republic of Congo say that they feel the world simply does not care about them. And who could blame them?
“For too long they have been the forgotten victims of war: responsible for none of the harm, but bearing the worst of the pain. But today, I believe, their voices have been heard, and that we finally have some hope to offer them.”
I took some time to read other articles covering this story today and was appalled by some of the negative comments made online about William Hague and Angelina Jolie.
Many were criticising Jolie due to her star status, asking what it has to do with her, probably due to a lack of awareness about the work she has been doing for the UN for over ten years. She has worked as an ambassador and now Special Envoy for the UNHCR, bringing attention to the plight of millions of refugees around the world (not to mention the millions of dollars she has donated to other good causes and countless hours of her time).
Miss Jolie and Mr Hague have been working on their sexual violence initiative for almost a year now and have already put in place a 70-strong specialist team of police, lawyers, psychologists, doctors and forensic experts to help survivors and witnesses. They have met three times in London and visited survivors of rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda last month.
I saw a lot of criticism of William Hague for putting up £10million of the £23million fund – but I would guess this is down to the fact that the UK put forward the initiative and are also president of the G8 for 2013.
To me the amount of money is irrelevant and probably equates to pennies out of the tax payers pocket – we are all human beings, where we are born is down to luck. If you had been born in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the threat of rape and violence on a daily basis would you not hope that someone somewhere would take notice and try to help you?
Unless we put ourselves in other people’s shoes we can never fully understand how terrifying life could be. Thanks to an accident of birth most of us will never have to go through what these women, children and babies go through and I’m so pleased to see Angelina Jolie and William Hague standing up for those who might otherwise not have a voice.
For Further Information:
Find out more about the G8 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
Read more about the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative
View the FCO’s Storify covering the G8 foreign Ministers’ Meeting
More information on the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative at our tumblr
Find out more about the UK’s work to support women and girls around the world