Time to Act – Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

Those who read The Kicking Tree will know how sensitive I am to the horrific crime of rape. It destroys on every level of being. It is far, far more significant than a physical act. I am not a woman, but if I were I know I could not separate sex from the calling to motherhood. To be deprived of the freedom to choose a sexual partner is to loose so much – apart, of course, from the violence, the pain and the despicable ugliness of it trammeling over a God given opportunity to express love, commitment and creativity.

Many, many men think they can detach their sex drive from their identity. They think they can have physical sex without it affecting who they are. They believe the short-term thrill of sexual relief and power in dominating another human being is just an event that will not affect their lives. That is not true. It is about identity, being love and wanted and the honour of fatherhood. Rape destroys the males too. The self-esteem comes from having a willing sexual partner – having someone think you are special enough to enjoy the deepest intimacy. To take another just because he is physically stronger does not mean that at anytime a man has “possessed” a person. At the very point of violence a man has to build up a wall against the hatred that is diminishing him. From that moment onwards he has to find ways of dealing with the knowledge that he is despised. He can no longer be the person he was created to be without hating himself.

I do not believe our male dominated world cultures have begun to take rape seriously enough. Sadly, the horrific hangings of teenage girls in India is seen as horrific for the murders rather than the raping. Too often authorities, the police, politicians and governments turn a blind eye to this crime. Let us not deceive ourselves, this happens in the West too. In war, rape has always been used as a weapon, but it appears to be on the increase as access to modern arms has led to the greater intensity of long standing tribal conflicts or given opportunity for dictators to prevail over larger areas. South Sudan (with which I am associated) with all the current reported atrocities there is a prime example.

This Global Summit could be the start to changing this. It acknowledges that rape is destructive and addresses the culture of turning the blind eye. It acknowledges that women are fully autonomous human beings with a right to determine their own lives, and it takes this message to the governments that are represented here – and those that aren’t. What needs to happen now is that we extend this discussion, consciously, to all walks of life – not just in war.

I hope and pray that the conference concludes with clear and decisive rules by which we, humanity, can begin to change things in our world.

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