Actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie called for perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict to be held to account in a powerful op-ed in the Washington Post on Monday.
“Today, decades of gradual progress in expanding human rights and entrenching international law are threatened by a rising tide of intolerance and a weakened commitment to human rights,” the op-ed, co-written by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, says.
“As voices of bigotry rise, the wait for gender equality is growing … Nowhere has this retreat been more visible than in wars and post-conflict situations,” Maas and Jolie wrote.
Reports of sexual violence being used as a weapon of war in Myanmar, Syria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have emerged in recent years. The conflicts in these countries and many others continue, putting more people, particularly women and girls, at risk of sexual violence.
Jolie and Maas highlight three areas in urgent need of attention to start tackling these issues in their op-ed, which was published one day ahead of a special United Nations Security Council session on Tuesday considering a resolution on combating the use of rape as a weapon of war.
“First, we want to ensure that perpetrators of sexual violence are held accountable … Second, we need better monitoring. Resolutions from the UN Security Council remain mere pieces of paper if we don’t ensure compliance,” they wrote.
Lastly, they called for survivors to be at the center of movements and policies to make change.
“We must increase support to survivors of sexual violence and ensure their voices are at the center of our response. A survivor-centered approach must include victims often overlooked, including boys or men and children born of rape,” they wrote.
It seems the draft currently under consideration is lacking several of these key elements, according to the Guardian.
While some policymakers, including the German mission to the UN, remain hopeful the resolution will be adopted on Tuesday, formal monitoring and reporting mechanisms have reportedly already been removed.
“In the current draft as it stands, the formal mechanism is gone,” the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Pramila Patten, told the Guardian. “It’s very, very weak.”
Patten added that a survivor-centered approach to addressing the issue could be jeopardized by US opposition to the inclusion of the word “gender” in UN documents, as well as mentions of sexual or reproductive health. The US is threatening to veto any draft of the resolution that includes these terms, according to European diplomats and a senior UN official.
“It will be a huge contradiction that you are talking about a survivor-centered approach and you do not have language on sexual and reproductive healthcare services, which is for me the most critical,” Patten said.
The resolution is now under consideration and the outcome of the special session has yet to be seen.