Angelina Jolie co-hosting Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in War
Actor and philanthropist Angelina Jolie is co-hosting a four-day summit in London this week which is to focus on combating the use of sexual violence and rape in war.
Joining UN special envoy Jolie in hosting the event is the UK's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, who has denounced rape as one of the "great mass crimes" of our time, and expressed a hope that the conference will signify a "turning point" in the fight against sexual violence.
The summit, beginning today in the Excel Centre in East London, will see experts, senior government officials, members of the law enforcement and representatives from dozens of NGOs from 140 nations come together to discuss the role of sexual violence in the context of war, and how best to prevent it.
According to the BBC, the event is the largest ever of its kind, and marks the two-year anniversary of Jolie and Hague's joint campaign – the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict – to raise awareness about the issue.
The pair have each visited warzones and met with victims of sexual violence in recent years, and are expected to call on those present at the summit this week to work towards transforming attitudes and increase funding for victims and survivors of conflict-born rape.
An international protocol for monitoring sexual violence in war will also be launched, which hopes to "set standards for documenting and investigating these crimes, so that...these crimes can't be committed with impunity," Hague said ahead of the conference.
In the lead-up to the event, however, the British government has faced criticism for its own treatment of victims of rape.
The Guardian reports that Anna Musgrave, advocacy manager at the UK's Refugee Council, has branded it "hypocritical" that the Foreign Office should be campaigning to eradicate sexual violence in war while neglecting the issue in a domestic context; she argues that victims of sexual violence who seek solace on British soil as refugees often receive brutal treatment.
"This summit demonstrates there is a dangerous lack of joined-up thinking when it comes to tackling sexual violence against women. These are the same women," Musgrave argues.
"On one hand, you've got real progress being made in conflict zones overseas, but when those same victims make it to UK shores it's a completely different story. Women often aren't believed, and instead of being protected they're further traumatised by the asylum system.
She continues: "It's critical that the government tackles this issue with the same gusto at home as it's doing abroad and protects the survivors of sexual violence".
US Secretary of State John Kerry has insisted that the conference will be a positive step, however, contending that, "We will pool our expertise, diplomatic skills and resources toward the common goal of relegating sexual violence to the annals of history where it belongs".
"Sexual violence plagues every country. Acts of sexual violence demean our collective humanity," he told the London Evening Standard.
"We must communicate a unified stance with a single, loud voice. There is no place in the civilised world for those who commit acts of sexual violence."
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who will also attend the summit, is expected to share of his recent visit to the increasingly unstable Democratic Republic of Congo, where sexual violence is a real problem.
Following the trip, which was in conjunction with Christian charity Tearfund, Welby underlined the vitality of protecting those most vulnerable to sexual violence in the region and branded the issue a "global tragedy".