Knesset, UK envoy join parliaments around world to discuss rape in war zones

June 12, 2014 03:57

The committee convened to discuss the prevention of sexual violence in areas of conflict, at the initiative and with the participation of the ambassador.

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Matthew Gould

Matthew Gould. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

History has shown that when the world decides something is bad, it changes, British Ambassador Matthew Gould said on Wednesday at the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women and Gender Equality.

The committee convened to discuss the prevention of sexual violence in areas of conflict, at the initiative and with the participation of the ambassador.

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The discussion was also held in some 40 parliaments around the world on Wednesday as part of a three-day summit in London on the issue co-hosted by actress Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

“A society that believes in human rights cannot agree that rape is a tool of war. What we do affects what happens. As an international community we must send a message to the world that we cannot let this continue. If we do not act, it may be said that the world is not interested and that justice was not brought to light,” said Gould in his opening remarks.

“If we decide that something should not be a part of struggles between groups, it will stop. There are things that even during war are unacceptable,” he added.

MK Aliza Lavie, chairwoman of the committee addressed the ambassador saying that rape and sexual violence was an important subject that the committee addresses on a regular basis through cooperation with NGOs, passing legislation, budget allocation, and work on the ground.

“Only international support will lead to the next stage – the sword will be place on the neck of us all,” said Lavie, referring to the burden and responsibility shared by the international community.

Vered Sweed, the adviser to the prime minister on Women’s Affairs also attended the discussion and said that “rape is the worst possible crime.”

“A woman who has been raped lives the rest of her life with the consequences. And rape is a repeat offense. As such, when putting war criminals on trial, it is important that the punishment be acute,” she said.

Sweed expressed her dismay that the schoolgirls who were kidnapped in Nigeria had still not been returned home and said that despite the protests, no active steps were being taken.

The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict was officially launched in London on Tuesday at the initiative of the UK government and Jolie, following a major international campaign to raise awareness on the issue.

“I have met survivors of warzone rape around the world. And almost without exception they ask for one thing – justice,” said Jolie on Tuesday.

“The number of convictions for war-zone sexual rape is pitifully small. People who rape innocent women, men and children during conflict assume that they will simply get away with it, because they have. The few cases that are brought forward are often thrown out for lack of evidence, despite the testimonies from brave survivors. This is an intolerable situation. That is why, at the heart of this campaign, we are calling for an end to impunity,” she said.

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