“To all who say that sexual abuse is . . . something so ingrained [in wars] that it can’t be eradicated, make no mistake – we can end sexual warfare conducted against innocent people,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said recently in London at The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. “We can establish new norms that respect women, girls, men, and boys. And we can hold those who commit these acts and those who condone them – we can hold them all accountable.”
Sexual violence is as old as conflict itself. For thousands of years, marauding armies have felt entitled to rape, pillage, and plunder.
“So why now?” Secretary Kerry asked. “Because thousands of years after rape [had been] written into the lexicon of warfare, we know that it is time to write it out and to banish sexual violence to the dark ages and the history books where it belongs.”
Sexual assaults have raged in wars of recent times from Darfur to Goma to Srebrenica.
“So what do we need to do?” Secretary Kerry asked. “We need a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual violence against women and men. We need to guarantee, country for country, that we can bring the perpetrators to justice. We need to restore dignity to survivors. And, he stressed, “we are committed to making sure that women have a seat at the table in resolving conflicts.”
“When people ask whether or not we can actually outlaw sexual violence in warfare, let me tell you the answer is a resounding yes. Yes, we can achieve this goal,” he emphasized.
“Together with all the people here – men and women, boys and girls – who refuse to remain victims, we rise,” Secretary Kerry said in conclusion. “We rise. We will go out of here and do the work to end this scourge of sexual violence.”