Global summit helps break the silence on war and women

In London June 12, Angelina Jolie looks at photographs as she attends the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. (EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga)

It may be the most salient commentary on the status of women globally that it has taken the world until the 21st century to undertake serious efforts to end sexual violence in conflict.

Rape as a weapon and a spoil of war, which disproportionately affects women, has long been the hidden and undiscussed atrocity. The long silence, however, is being broken, most recently at a Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, held in London and organized by British Foreign Secretary William Hague and American actress and activist Angelina Jolie.

Secretary of State John Kerry gave a major speech June 13, the final day of the four-day conference. As Washington Post writer Melinda Henneberger noted, that Kerry chose to attend the conference as the situation in Iraq was disintegrating signals that the issue of rape during conflict is not viewed any longer as "a secondary issue, or some narrow concern."

Kerry's appearance was a visible marker of the prominence the cause has gained. But years of work, organizing and political persuasion preceded the London event, which was attended by hundreds of government officials representing more than 120 countries, as well as activists and survivors.

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