Angelina Jolie speaks on sexual violence

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie has condemned sexual violence suffered by Rohinya women in war-torn Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

The actress spoke at a UN peace keeping conference, where she called on all stakeholders, including international conflict negotiators, to hasten their intervention for peace and security of lives.


Image taken Sept., 14, 2017 at the UN Headquarters in New York shows Angelina Jolie and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (Image via Reuters)

Jolie’s speech was necessitated by the untold hardship and sufferings experienced by Ronhingya natives since the military’s counter-insurgency. Hundreds of thousands have fled Myanmar and are currently seeking refuge in Bangladesh.

Remarkably, more than 600,000 thousands Rohingya women who escaped to Bangladesh as refugees since fleeing for safety from Buddhist-majority Myanmar are testifying of their sordid rape experiences. Violence has intensified since August and more people are still trapped in the crossfire.

An analysis from a United Nations official described the escalating situation in Myanmar as a case of ethnic cleansing spearheaded by the military. And Jolie, who is a special envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), spoke with a delegation from Bangladesh in faraway Canadian city, Vancouver, from where she called for prompt actions against rapists among Myanmar soldiers.

The 42-year-old filmmaker and humanitarian said plans are underway for her visit to Rohingya victims of sexual violence but gave no further details on the proposed trip. However, she expressed the need to bring all sexual predators to book for their crimes against some vulnerable individual members of the society.

In her keynote address, the Academy Award winner said, ‘We all know that sexual violence is very cheap…even cheaper than a bullet. The effects on victims are long-lasting, destructive and indelible.’

She continued, ‘People might think sexual violence is unrelated to sex and is not a criminal act. They can say it is employed as a weapon in times of war and that no one can do anything about it, but they’re wrong.

‘I admit it is hard to punish the perpetrators, yet, it is not impossible because there are laws and legal institutions to enforce them through proper investigations and trials. The prospects are good since we know the rapists. What we need now is the political will to take a decisive action against them.’

Jolie expressed pain, anger and pity for Rohingya women who media reports say, were victims of organised mass rape and other criminal acts against humanity believed to be a handiwork of Myanmar military officials.

Another United Nations official leveled a case in this regard on Sunday after touring camps in Bangladesh for testimonies and collection of evidence.

Pramila Patten, who represented the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, spoke  on sexual violence in wartime, noting that she has filed allegations with the International Criminal Court in the Hague against Myanmar military.

Jolie also made reference to the list of sexual harassment scandals rocking many industries, government officials, celebrities and business moguls across different countries. In direct remarks to a publication by The New York Times last October, the famous actress said she suffered a terrible experience from Harvey Weinstein in a hotel room sometime in 1998 and as a result of that incident, rejected numerous offers to work with the Weinstein company.

‘People are suffering these bad experiences everyday. Sexual violence is happening everywhere, even in the movie industry where I work – in business establishments, among politicians, in the military, in our institutions of higher learning, and across the globe,’ the mother-of-six said.

She continued, ‘The worst part of these horrific acts is that it happens too often but is never taken seriously. The nightmarish pains and trauma it brings are sometimes presented as something trivial or treated as a minor offense by the custodians of our laws. How can such acts be seen as an ‘error’ by someone who cannot control his urge? Is it that simple?

‘I shed tears when the suspects decide to blame it on some psychological illness or an extremely high libido. How can it be that a man who rapes women is oversexed? He should face charges for sexual abuse.’

Bangladesh foreign ministry said in an official statement on Sunday that Jolie’s speech was a protest for and on behalf of each and almost every Rohingya female who suffered sexual violence in the hands of Myanmar military.

Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, said on Wednesday that her country would surely overcome all hurdles against its efforts to bring an end to the crisis in Ronhinya, and called on the international community to continue doling out support.

‘I am optimistic that despite the mountainous challenges, a peaceful resolution will be reached by all parties in the war. This can only be achieved with help from the international community,’ she noted.

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