Speaking before the largest such convention of all time, John Kerry called for the end of sexual violence in warfare at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, an event co-hosted by British Foreign Secretary William Hague and special envoy of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Angelina Jolie.
The four-day long summit in London had four explicit goals: 1) Institute practical training for soldiers and peacekeepers to help protect women from abuse; 2) End the culture of impunity surrounding sexual violence within the context of warfare by instituting consistent and effective legal protocols; 3) Increase support given to survivors of sexual assault; and 4) Eradicate the culture of acceptance surrounding sexual violence in warfare through a paradigm shift in beliefs.
— Maria Ressa (@maria_ressa) June 13, 2014
While most people believe the feat to be impossible, stating that rape is ingrained in warfare, Kerry and others believe quite the opposite, with Kerry likening the banning of sexual violence to the Chemical Weapons Convention, stating that, after World War I, “people, particularly veterans, were so horrified that, except for the most depraved exceptions we’ve seen once or twice since, chemical and biological weapons were banned from battlefields within a decade of that war. That speaks to possibilities.”
— StateDept Live (@StateDeptLive) June 13, 2014
In order to “write a new norm, one that protects women, girls, men and boys, from these unspeakable crimes,” Kerry envisions a five-part plan:
1) Institute the use of a “mobile court” in order to bring swift and immediate justice to perpetrators.
2) Increase funding for “Safe from the Start”, a program which educates refugee workers and others in how to prevent violence.
3) Expand the “Together for Girls” program, whose goal is to end violence against young girls through education.
4) Increase the amount of money US Embassies have to help people during times of emergency.
5) Hold other countries to the standards of the United States and encourage them to stop giving visas to those accused of sexually violent crimes.
“Thousands of years after rape was written into the lexicon of warfare, we know that it is time to write it out and to banish sexual violence to the dark ages and the history books where it belongs,” stated Kerry.
In her opening remarks on Tuesday, Angelina Jolie had a very similar message to send to those in attendance: “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.”
Along with Kerry, Jolie, and Hague, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former US President Jimmy Carter sent video messages to be shared at the conference, a conference which was attended by representatives from more than 100 countries.
Kerry ended his speech by reading “Still I Rise”, a poem by the late Maya Angelou: “We came here to send a message: We rise, we rise . Let’s get the job done,” Kerry announced before leaving to a standing ovation.
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