New Women’s Centre Launched at London School of Economics By Angelina Jolie

Rape and sexual violence are used as tactics of war in conflicts across the world. Sadly, sexual violence is often used for political ends, as a means of ethnic cleansing and to terrorise local communities. It’s a devastating act that destroys lives, fuels further conflict, creates refugees, jeopardises ceasefires and undermines long-term prospects for reconciliation. Sexual violence affects men, women and children. All too often, the victims face a life of shame and stigma while the perpetrators go free. Only a handful of people responsible for these crimes have ever been brought to trial. As a result, those who order or carry out rape and sexual violence in conflict expect to get away with it.

Now, William Hague, the U.K. Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, and Angelina Jolie Pitt, Hollywood actor, director and international women’s rights campaigner, have launched a new Centre for Women, Peace and Security at the London School of Economics (LSE). It will be hosted in LSE’s new Institute of Global Affairs, which will offer an MSc program in women, peace and security from 2016.The Centre is the first of its kind and its main aim is to boost the global campaign for women's rights and empowerment, abolishing the use of sexual violence as a weapon.

Speaking at the launch, Jolie, also a special envoy for the United Nation’s high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), dedicated the Centre to a 13-year-old girl who had been captured by ISIS and used as a sex slave and consequently cast out of her community. The Hollywood star said, 'There is no stable future for a world in which crimes committed against women go unpunished; a world in which young girls are unable to reach their potential; where children see their mothers disrespected, violated and murdered; where it is considered acceptable for a husband to reject his wife and the mother of his children because she was raped; or normal for a woman to be forced to marry her rapist.' 

This ground-breaking LSE Centre will examine how to deal with rape in a practical sense, including how to prosecute perpetrators of sexual violence and how to help women rebuild communities and live safely after wars end. It will gather key thinkers, activists, policymakers and academics together in order to better tackle inflexible global problems such as the prosecution of warzone rapists and women’s engagement in politics. It will be a part of a network of people across the world, working not only to shatter impunity for sexual violence in conflict but to advance the rights of women worldwide.

Hague, described seeing sexual violence in conflict zones throughout his tenure as foreign secretary, and noted that although it was “a major factor in perpetuating conflict and holding back development” it was “hardly talked about by foreign ministers or even considered a security issue”. Hague noted that sexual violence was often seen as an inevitable part of war. Now this Centre will strive to do something about it by bringing about justice for its survivors. 

Photo Credit: Gov.UK