Angelina Jolie launches global campaign against sexual violence as war weapon

(Photo: REUTERS / Carl Court / pool)Actress and special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Angelina Jolie, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague make their opening speeches at a global summit to end sexual violence in conflict, in London June 10, 2014. Hollywood actress Jolie and British Foreign Secretary Hague vowed on Tuesday to produce practical action from the world's first summit on ending sexual violence in conflict, to punish those responsible and help victims.

Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie has called on international government ministers, military leaders and civil society members at a Global Summit to end sexual violence and seek unprecedented ways to stop rape as a weapon of war.

"We must send a message across the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence - the shame is on the aggressor," said Jolie.

The four-day conference began Tuesday in London with the aim of focussing on how to eliminate sexual violence in war zones.

The World Council of Churches had in October launched a campaign to combat the use of rape as a weapon of war, but not on the scale of that started by Jolie and Hague.

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"It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict. It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians," said the 39-year-old actress. It is "done to torture and humiliate people and often to very young children."

"We need to see real commitment and go after the worst perpetrators, to fund proper protection for vulnerable people, and to step in to help the worst-affected countries."

WILLIAM HAGUE

Jolie is co-hosting the conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague and said she was dedicating it to a Bosnian rape victim she met who "felt abandoned by the world" and was unable to face telling her children about her past.

"This day is for her," said the actress who is a U.N. special enovy. "We believe it truly is a summit like no other."

Jolie said she wanted to expunge the "myth" that rape is inevitable in war.

"There is 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,"

Attending the June 10 to 13 conference, are 300 government ministers, military and judicial officials and activists from up to 150 nations, that is the result of a two-year partnership between Jolie and Hague, Reuters news agency reported.

On October 31 a women's group at the World Council of Churches launched a campaign asking people to wear black on Thursdays to indicate awareness and the hope that eventually rape and violence within communities will come to an end.

Fulata Mbano-Moyo, WCC program executive for Women in Church and Society, said, "Through this campaign, we want to accompany our sisters, who bear the scars of violence, invisible and visible, in Syria, Palestine and Israel, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and the whole world, where women's bodies remain a battlefield, whether in armed conflict or so-called 'peaceful' situations."

Speaking on the BBC Tuesday the British foreign secretary Hague said rape has affected most continents in the world and in particular countries such as Syria, Rwanda, Congo and Colombia

"If anything, this is getting worse - war zone rape as a weapon of war, used systematically and deliberately against civilian populations," he said.

"What this campaign needs is big powerful governments of the world, like us, with a big diplomatic network and a big development budget to really get involved and take action, as we are," he said.

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