Angelina Jolie delivered a powerful keynote speech at the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference in Vancouver on Wednesday, calling on international conflict negotiators to take their role in preventing and punishing sexual violence more seriously.
Jolie called on those gathered to recognize sexual violence as a weapon and “a critical obstacle to achieving women’s equality and our full human rights.”
The mom-of-six, who is a Special Envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, references current conflicts around the globe, obliquely addressing the current wave of sexual abuse allegations lobbed at men in Hollywood.
“It is cheaper than a bullet, and it has lasting consequences that unfold with sickening predictability that make it so cruelly effective,” she said of sexual violence.
“This is rape and assault designed to torture, to terrorize, to force people to flee, and to humiliate them. It has nothing to do with sex. It has everything to do with the abuse of power. It is criminal behaviour.”
Jolie seemingly referenced her encounters with Harvey Weinstein, which she previously described as a “bad experience” to The New York Times, explaining it led her to refuse to work with the producer and warn other actresses about him.
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“All too often, these kinds of crimes against women are laughed off, depicted as a minor offense by someone who cannot control themselves, as an illness, or as some kind of exaggerated sexual need,” she said.
The actress criticized leaders for seeing sexual violence against women as an inevitable part of conflict, instead of an issue that should be addressed when it comes to peace negotiations and punishments.
“Even if we accept that sexual violence has nothing to do with sex, that it is a crime, and that it is used as a weapon, many people still believe that it is simply not possible to do anything about it,” she said. “It is hard, but it is not impossible. We have the laws, the institutions, and the expertise in gathering evidence. We are able to identify perpetrators. What is missing is the political will.”
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