As we approach International Women's Day and reflect on the goals of our Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, we at Physicians for Human Rights sometimes feel like we are swimming against an inexorable tide of denial and temporizing attitudes.
It was foreseeable that if an Ebola outbreak in an impoverished African country moved from rural to urban areas, the existing heath care systems would be unable to treat everyone or prevent further transmissions. Years of conflict, lack of education, corruption, distrust of government, and chronic underinvestment in the health care system would take their toll.
When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry took the stage to give the keynote speech at the closing plenary of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, I expected words that would strike all the correct notes.
Words, words, words. At the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, I spent most of the day listening to words and phrases used by human rights activists to describe sexual violence in conflict – words that are being co-opted by government officials.
In the opening plenary of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, I listened to speaker after speaker recount the pervasiveness of sexual violence in war and the toll it takes on survivors. It made me wonder: how many rapes does it take before we make the world a place where all people live free – free from the fear of sexual violence?