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Rediff.com  » News » PHOTOS: Angelina Jolie begins war against rapes in conflict

PHOTOS: Angelina Jolie begins war against rapes in conflict

June 12, 2014 09:44 IST

Image: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Angelina Jolie hugs Neema Namadamu of the Democratic Republic of Congo at the 'End Sexual Violence in Conflict' summit in London.
Photographs: Lefteris Pitarakis/Getty Images

It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict. There’s 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,” said Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie as she opened the biggest summit of its kind aimed at ending the scourge of sexual violence in conflict.

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PHOTOS: Angelina Jolie begins war against rapes in conflict

Image: Jolie turns emotional as she hears a speech from one of the victims at the conference.
Photographs: Lefteris Pitarakis/Getty Images

Speaking at the End Sexual Violence in Conflict summit at ExCeL, London, the star said, “This whole subject has been taboo for far too long. War zone rape is a crime that thrives on silence and denial. The stigma harms survivors and causes feelings of shame and worthlessness. It feeds ignorance, such as the notion that rape has anything to do with normal sexual impulses. But most of all, it allows the rapist to get away with it. They feel above the law because the law rarely touches them and society tolerates them.”

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PHOTOS: Angelina Jolie begins war against rapes in conflict

Image: British Foreign Secretary William Hague, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Angelina Jolie before the meet.
Photographs: Ben A Pruchnie/Getty Images

According to the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, more than 150 million young girls and 73 million boys experience sexual violence every year, and children in conflict-affected countries are the most vulnerable. Yet shockingly few perpetrators are ever prosecuted or convicted. Jolie called for the international community to put priority on efforts to hold those responsible for sexual violence to account.

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PHOTOS: Angelina Jolie begins war against rapes in conflict

Image: Jolie embraces Esther Ruth Atim of Uganda, at the 'End Sexual Violence in Conflict' summit
Photographs: Lefteris Pitarakis /Getty Images

Jolie said it was time to end a culture of silence and denial that helps war zone rape to thrive, and means that the rapists rarely face justice. “They feel above the law because the law rarely touches them and society tolerates them,” she said, adding, “We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence -- that the shame is on the aggressor.”

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PHOTOS: Angelina Jolie begins war against rapes in conflict

Image: Jolie poses with delegates at the 'End Sexual Violence in Conflict' summit
Photographs: Lefteris Pitarakis /Getty Images

The conference has 140 countries taking part, and comes after two years of planning by Angelina Jolie and William Hague, the Secretary of State in United Kingdom. Hague said that the UK will pledge a further £6 million (Rs 60 crore) to help survivors of sexual violence in conflict.

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PHOTOS: Angelina Jolie begins war against rapes in conflict

Image: The four-day conference on sexual violence in war is hosted by Foreign Secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie
Photographs: Peter Macdiarmid/ /Getty Images

The summit is the fruit of a two-year campaign by UN special envoy Jolie and Hague, who have visited the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bosnia to meet victims of rape during conflict. Jolie said she and Hague had discussed a woman they met in Bosnia, who was still too ashamed to tell her son that she had been raped. “This day is for her,” said Jolie. “We believe it truly is a summit like no other.”