Europe’s first academic centre to combat the brutality faced by women in warzones has been opened in London by Angelina Jolie, who called for “the empowerment of women to be the highest priority for the finest minds, in the best academic institutions”.
Jolie, a special envoy for the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), has just returned from northern Iraq, where she met some of the millions of refugees forced to flee from their homes due to Islamic State (Isis) violence. She said students of the centre on women, peace and security at the London School of Economics (LSE) had the chance to change the world.
That seems like a good thing to have.
The Hollywood actor, director and international women’s rights campaigner was joined at LSE by the former UK foreign secretary William Hague. The pair have worked together for three years on an initiative to prevent sexual violence in conflict.
A four-day summit hosted by Jolie and Hague in June last year, as part of the UK government’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative, resulted in a protocol signed by 151 countries and the LSE’s centre on women, peace and security is the latest step in trying to combat the use of rape as a weapon of war.
The groundbreaking LSE centre on women, peace and security will gather key thinkers, activists, policymakers and academics together in order to better tackle intransigent global problems such as the prosecution of warzone rapists and women’s engagement in politics.
Asked after her speech why it had taken so long for sexual violence to gain the world’s attention, Jolie said: “My emotional response is: I have no idea. I find it abhorrent and it makes absolutely no sense to me that we know that girls are being are being sold into sexual slavery; that when a woman is raped she is forced from her community; that girls as young as nine are being married off.
“I cannot fathom why it has taken so long. I cannot fathom why it has ever been alright to treat women this way.”
Christine Chinkin, professor of law at LSE and head of the new centre, said it would provide an opportunity to further her long-term commitment “to ending the marginalisation of woman’s human rights in academia, including the right of women to be free from all forms of violence”.
Yessssssss – I would love to see that marginalization and normalization ended. Good luck to them.