NEW YORK – On Monday, Angelina Jolie, as a Special Envoy for the UNHCR, spoke in front of the U.N. Security Council to make war zone rape a top priority of the United Nations. She explained to the council that the crime of rape occurs not because it is an inherent outcome of war but because the global climate allows it.
In making her case, Jolie told stories of women and girls she met. She spoke of a five-year-old girl who was raped outside of a police station, and of girls who are impregnated before their bodies can carry the child, causing fistulas. She highlighted the grotesque brutality of boys who are held at gunpoint and forced to rape their mothers or sisters and of women who are violated with bottles, tree branches, or even knives.
One of her biggest concerns with sexual violence is the miniscule percentage of prosecutions for hundreds of thousands of victims. Jolie stated that victims become not only victims of sexual assault, but also of impunity as their perpetrators are almost never brought to justice.
Jolie, along with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon lobbied the Security Council to unanimously adopt a resolution that recognizes how rape can exacerbate conflict and impede the restoration of peace and security. The resolution will encourage member states to include crimes of sexual violence in their penal codes. The resolution recognizes that sexual violence can constitute a crime against humanity, giving it weight in the international legal system.
This prosecution of sexual criminals may assist in the healing process for victims by eliminating the shame and stigma that some societies associate with rape victims. As Jolie and Ban Ki-moon voice the pain of the rape victims, they make enormous strides toward greater safety and dignity of women worldwide.
– Caitlin Zusy