MANILA, Philippines – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Special Envoy Angelina Jolie has teamed up with United Kingdom Foreign Secretary William Hague to call an end to sexual violence in conflict zones.
Hague and Angelina will visit the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda to meet with survivors of rape and sexual violence in war zones. According to Telegraph.co.uk, the visit will take place in the week of March 25. No specific dates were given.
The two will also meet with UN organizations and political leaders to discuss solutions to the growing problem.
A report quoted by HuffingtonPost.co.uk revealed that during the Congo war that began in 1998, around 200,000 women and girls were raped. Though the war ended in 2003, 8,000 women and girls were raped amid continuing conflict in 2010 alone.
Between 250,000 to 500,000 people were sexually assaulted during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. In some parts of the world, rape is a recognized “weapon of war.”
Alarmingly, despite these figures, the conviction rate for suspects of sexual assault is low.
Calling on the G8
Before the visit, Jolie said:
“This visit is about hearing first hand from people who have endured rape and sexual violence during the conflict in the Eastern DRC. We want to identify ways in which the international community can help them to rebuild their lives.
“We want to learn the lessons that their experience holds for how the world can protect thousands of women, men, and children at risk of rape in many other conflict zones.
“And we want to persuade governments around the world to give this issue the attention it deserves. Unless the world acts, we will always be reacting to atrocities, treating survivors rather than preventing rape in the first place.
“I welcome the United Kingdom’s efforts to galvanize the international action that is so desperately needed.”
Hague and Jolie launched their UK campaign against conflict zone rape and sexual violence in May 2012.
Their visit comes 3 weeks before a London meeting of foreign ministers from the G8 composed of the US, France, UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, Russia, and Italy.
Hague and Jolie are calling on the G8 to make landmark decisions to secure justice for survivors of sexual violence and stop perpetrators. Their wish list includes a new International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Rape and Sexual Violence, agreement that rape and sexual violence constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Convention so that universal jurisdiction can apply, and practical commitments to help affected countries.
As a UNHCR Special Envoy, Jolie has fought for the rights of refugees worldwide for over a decade.
A 2011 film by the 37-year-old actress, “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” depicts the experiences of victims in the infamous rape camps set up during the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Watch the movie’s trailer here:
– With reports by Pia Ranada/Rappler.com