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Kerry urges end to sexual violence in conflict, says it's time for world to act

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 8:19 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Secretary of State John Kerry says world must "write a new norm" on sexual violence in war
  • "There is a real and critical role for governments to play in this fight," Kerry says
  • His words come on a the final day of the largest ever summit on sexual violence in conflict
  • Its organizers want to end culture of impunity for perpetrators, boost support for victims

London (CNN) -- Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday told an international summit on ending sexual violence in conflict that it was time for the world to banish the crime "to the history books where it belongs."

"It's time for us in an age where we see enough of chaos, failed and failing states, to write a new norm, one that protects women, girls, men, boys, protects them from these unspeakable crimes," he said.

Kerry's words came on the final day of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, hosted this week in London by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Hollywood star and U.N. special envoy Angelina Jolie.

Kerry called on governments to end a culture of impunity for war-zone rape, for perpetrators to be held accountable and for victims to be supported, not ostracized by their communities.

Representatives of more than 100 countries attended the summit, as well as hundreds of experts, survivors, faith leaders, and staffers from NGOs and international organizations.

"This conference, the largest of its kind in history, is about forcing the world to stop looking away," said Kerry.

"There is a real and critical role for governments to play in this fight."

Kerry also had a message for those who say that sexual violence in war is too ingrained to be wiped out: Look at what has already been done by the "civilized world" when its conscience is stirred.

He cited efforts to stamp out the use of chemical weapons and nuclear weapons as examples of the world's ability to shift course after realizing the horror of mankind's actions.

"So when people ask if we can actually outlaw sexual violence in warfare, the answer is a resounding yes; yes we can achieve this goal."

The summit organizers have established four goals: Ending the culture of impunity by agreeing on an international protocol for documenting and investigating sexual violence in conflict zones; taking practical steps to protect women, including by training soldiers and peacekeepers; increasing support for survivors and human rights activists; and achieving a "seismic shift" in attitudes so that the problem is recognized and tackled globally.

Jolie, who was joined at the summit by fiance Brad Pitt, gave opening remarks Tuesday.

"It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict," she said. There's nothing inevitable about it. It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians. It has nothing to do with sex, everything to do with power."

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