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Peace and Security

U.K. House of Lords: Anti-Rape Activists Speak Out

United Kingdom-2015-07-15-Anti-Rape Activists Speak out in U.K. House of Lords

London, United Kingdom—Rape as a weapon of war was the issue that brought many people to a meeting in the House of Lords.

“Prevention of Sexual Violence in Conflict” was the title of the meeting, which was held on July 15, 2015, in a committee room of the House of Lords by UPF-United Kingdom together with the non-profit group Mothers of Congo.

Participants came from as far as Monaco and Paris. Staff members from several embassies and many NGOs attended, as did activists who are involved in this issue.

The meeting was hosted by Rt. Hon. Baroness Verma, minister for international development, and supported by Rt. Hon. Baroness Anelay DBE, minister for the prevention of sexual violence in conflict.

Some participants, who themselves had suffered sexual violence in conflict, provided powerful and shocking testimonies. Others told of growing up where such experiences were common. They explained the tactics they were taught, even from the age of seven years, to avoid being raped.

Baroness Verma said that her department is working to ensure that these goals are included in the Sustainable Development Goals that the United Nations will adopt at the end of this year.

Baroness Verma read the speech by Baroness Anelay, who could not attend because she had been called to make a statement in the House of Lords. Baroness Anelay’s call for an International Protocol against Rape as a Weapon of War was supported enthusiastically by the audience.

Robin Marsh, secretary general of UPF-UK, said that rape as a weapon is a problem that affects many parts of the world. UPF was created to bring a consciousness of humanity as one family under a loving God, he said. Each person has sacred value and should be treated as a son or daughter of God. Men need to be educated to treat women as daughters of God, he said.

UPF was created by its founders, Dr. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon, as an agency of healing. Therefore UPF supporters must raise awareness of the campaign to end sexual violence in conflict, he said.

Charlotte Simon, founder of Mothers of Congo, said she had seen too many women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo suffering due to sexual violence. She praised the role of Dr. Denis Mukwege and his Panzi Hospital in the DR Congo city of Bukavu, which specializes in the healing of rape victims. Mothers of Congo congratulated the UK government for its efforts to end sexual violence and for providing aid, she said, but urged the government to speak out so that the Congolese people could find justice for the human rights violations they are suffering. 

Muzvare Betty Makoni, founder of Girl Child Network Worldwide, spoke passionately about the suffering of African women who have endured sexual violence that affects them for their whole life. She accused African leadership, which is predominantly male, of doing a poor job of dealing with Africans’ problems.

UPF-UK Director Keith Best introduced the Survivors Speak out Network, which he had brought to a UN international conference on sexual violence in 2014, when he was the CEO of Freedom from Torture. He spoke of the responsibility of the International Criminal Court and localized branch courts to remove the impunity that allows perpetrators to continue committing such heinous crimes. 

Christelle Ngama from Youth WFWP spoke very personally about the challenges faced by herself and others growing up in eastern DR Congo to protect themselves in a vulnerable and lawless region.

Baroness Verma praised UPF for organizing these types of conferences that gather a wide range of concerned people. Politicians alone do not create change, she said; rather it is in partnerships of civil society and the wider society that change can happen. Meetings like this one help to forge those partnerships, she said.

 

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