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Global

Inbox News in brief Warzone rape ‘must be at top of international agenda’ Young people’s lives are being ruined by sexual violence in South Sudan, Syria and the Central African Republic, delegates at a sexual violence conference heard. The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, held in London from 10-13 June, attracted more than 1,700 delegates and 79 ministers, making it the biggest gathering on the subject ever held. Co-chaired by Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie, who is Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the summit agreed practical steps to tackle impunity for the use of rape as a weapon of war and to begin to change global attitudes to these crimes, urging the international community to join forces against war rape in the same way that previous generations joined forces to put an end to slavery and the use of landmines. “A society that believes in human rights and equality cannot know about the way rape is used as a weapon of war and then simply ignore it,” reads the Chair’s Summary of the Summit. “Sexual violence is not an inevitable side-effect of war. It can be stopped if perpetrators are held to account and attitudes and practices change… This is a matter of our common humanity.” Discussions at the summit involved some of the world’s leading authorities in the field, as well as youth and minority groups. Considering ‘lessons learned’ from conflict-afflicted countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, attendees discussed the roles of military, peacekeeping and humanitarian agencies in acting to prevent conflict related sexual violence. Jolie said: “We need to put survivors in the forefront of our efforts – not as victims, but as inspiring and resilient people who can guide us to the right choices and decisions.” She added: “Warzone rape must remain at the top of the international agenda – at the Security Council, in regional bodies and in the foreign policy of each of the countries gathered here today.” A Statement of Action was signed and a range of legal, humanitarian and security sector reforms were agreed upon that will play a critical role in dispelling the culture of exemption for sexual violence in conflict. Four key areas for change were addressed: improvement of accountability; increased support for survivors and their dependants; promotion of gender equality and security; British Foreign Secretary William Hague and the full integration of responses to sexual and gender-based violence in all peace and security efforts – including within the justice sector, and police and military training. The summit urged states to strengthen domestic laws so that perpetrators can be reliably prosecuted in the country in which their crimes were committed, and reiterated the fact that states hold responsibility for breaches of international law committed by their armed forces. It was agreed that, during ceasefires and peace negotiations, no amnesties should be given to those who commit sexual violence during conflict. International strategic co-operation must also be improved. However, attendees admitted that good laws and international agreements would not be enough if attitudes don’t change. The summit appealed to faith groups to help spearhead this effort through their networks and influences, as they are uniquely placed to change views, and challenge cultural and social norms. Women’s groups also have a history of playing an important role in localised mediation and reconciliation efforts, delegates heard. However, women remain largely excluded from formal processes, despite often having more access and legitimacy than official negotiators. But it isn’t only women who are affected. Domestic legislation addressing sexual violence needs to be gender neutral, delegates said, and crimes against any person must be prosecuted. Children born of conflict-related rape suffer lifelong consequences, as do girl-child soldiers ‘married’ to combatants and forced into sexual slavery, and men and boys held in detention who are systematically raped as a form of punishment or torture. Singapore censorship thwarted Tightly regulated city-state Singapore has overturned its library’s attempt to destroy two ‘gay-themed’ children’s books – including And Tango Makes Three, a story about penguins – following protests about literary censorship. The books have instead been moved from the children’s section to the adult section. Ghandi reconsidered Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy has caused uproar by challenging the widely held view of Mahatma Ghandi as morality incarnate, condemning him for accepting the brutal social hierarchy of the Indian caste system. Locals flock to newly formed desert oasis A lake has sprouted in the Tunisian desert, to the confusion and salvation of hundreds of locals living in the 40oC heat. But Lac de Gafsa’s waters shifted from clear turquoise to algae green in just a few days, leading experts to believe that it may be radioactive – but this hasn’t deterred eager swimmers. Geologists put its sudden manifestation down to seismic activity. Maori language learning in decline Only four per cent of non-Maori secondary school students in New Zealand are opting to learn Maori, new government figures show. There is an ongoing debate as to whether the language should be made compulsory for all. UK’s actions ‘morally indefensible’ Baroness Warsi, the UK’s former Minister of State for Faith and Communities and its first muslim woman in Cabinet, has quit in objection to the government’s refusal to condemn Israel’s attacks on Gaza. She called the UK’s approach and language during the current crisis “morally indefensible” in her resignation letter to Prime Minister David Cameron. four 4 l www.global -br ief ing.org th quar ter 2014 global


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