Angelina Jolie calls out lack of support for survivors of wartime sexual assault

Angelina Jolie has revealed her frustration over the lack of progress made in tackling sexual violence in conflict zones over the last decade, and said that soldiers perpetrating abuse in Ukraine must be held accountable

Angelina Jolie has criticised governments around the world over their lack of support for survivors of wartime sexual violence in a powerful statement.

The actor and UN special envoy launched the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) back in 2012 alongside the then foreign secretary William Hague, and today told the Guardian that the lack of progress over the past decade is “deeply painful and frustrating”.

Writing in the newspaper ahead of the British government’s upcoming international conference on conflict-related sexual violence, which also marks the 10th anniversary of PSVI, Jolie hailed developments including the launch of the Murad Code, the global code of conduct for better and safer gathering of information about conflict-related sexual violence from survivors, but said that there has not been “nearly enough” advancement overall.

“There has been some progress… but it has not been nearly enough to meet the needs of survivors or to deter perpetrators from using rape as a weapon of war in almost every new conflict in the past decade,” she said.

Angelina Jolie and William Hague at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

“Despite the commitments governments made, we have not seen significant, lasting action at the global level. This is deeply painful and frustrating.”

Jolie said that she has “time and again” seen inaction over “how to implement” the promises that governments make about tackling sexual violence, due to “economic and political interests being put first”, the prioritisation of some conflicts as more important than others, and the fact that many governments have “downgraded” their attempts to combat it.

“We meet and discuss these horrors and agree that they should never be allowed to happen again,” she wrote. “We promise to draw – and to hold – that line

“But when it comes to hard choices about how to implement these promises, we run into the same problems time and again. We run into some security council members abusing their veto power, such as in the case of Syria.

“We run into economic and political interests being put first, treating some conflicts as more important than others. And we run into a lack of political will, meaning that governments in recent years have downgraded the importance of efforts to combat war-zone sexual violence, despite the direct link to international peace and security.” 

In a separate interview with the Evening Standard, Jolie called for Vladimir Putin’s troops to be held to account for the attacks and abuse they have perpetrated against women during the war in Ukraine.

“The goal has to be to try to create a deterrent, by holding perpetrators to account, whoever they are,” she said.

“The rapes reported during the invasion of Ukraine follow a familiar pattern: soldiers move into a civilian area and attack and abuse women, out of a sense of impunity and entitlement, and to shatter families and whole communities,” she added.

“The people who carry out these abuses feel untouchable. Not enough has been done by the international community to attach a significant cost to these crimes. As a result, each time there is a new conflict, civilians pay the price.”

Jolie went on to propose the creation of a “permanent, international commission” to investigate conflict-based sexual violence, which could “support national and international investigators, prosecutors and other accountability and justice mechanisms.”

The government has announced £12.5 million in funding over three years, aimed at tackling sexual violence in conflict and supporting survivors, focusing on Ukraine, Bosnia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq and South Sudan. 

“The very threat of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war should bring immediate international condemnation and swift action to stop those attacks before they start,” James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, said.

“So today, we stand in solidarity to support survivors and to bring justice. But also to send an unequivocal message to those who order, allow or perpetrate sexual violence: we will not tolerate it and we will push for perpetrators to be prosecuted.”

The PSVI has previously come under fire after it was reported that the cost ofa 2014 summit was more than five times the UK’s 2015 budget for dealing with wartime sexual violence.

Images: Getty

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