Speaking at the end of a four-day summit in London dedicated to ending sexual violence in armed conflicts and hosted by U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague, Kerry said the U.S. will block visas for perpetrators, press for the release of human-rights defenders and extend funding to non-governmental organizations working with survivors of abuse.
“It’s time to write a new norm, one that protects women, girls, men and boys, from these unspeakable crimes,” Kerry told delegates. After World War I, “people, particularly veterans, were so horrified that, except for the most depraved exceptions we’ve seen once or twice since, chemical and biological weapons were banned from battlefields within a decade of that war. That speaks to possibilities.”
The secretary of state called for “zero tolerance” for sexual violence, guarantees from all countries that perpetrators would be brought to justice, support for survivors and an end to gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies.
“Thousands of years after rape was written into the lexicon of warfare, we know that it is time to write it out and to banish sexual violence to the dark ages and the history books where it belongs,” Kerry said. “We can make clear to the world we will not tolerate these horrific tactics.”
Peace agreements that offer amnesty to rapists should not be tolerated, Kerry said, and no country should offer sanctuary to soldiers, their commanding officers or political leaders if they are implicated in the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war.
“We need to send a strong message that no matter who commits these crimes, wherever they take place, the perpetrators will find no safe harbor anywhere,” he said. “Acts of sexual violence demean our collective humanity, it degrades and defiles the very idea of civilization.”
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