Hague and Jolie's plan for warzone rape prosecutions must be accompanied by efforts to tackle every day sexist attitudes towards women
9 June 2014 - As the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict starts in London, leading aid agency CARE International UK and Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates call for governments around the world to address the daily, deplorable acts of violence against women by committing to teach boys and young men about gender discrimination in their national curricula.
CARE International UK welcomes the Global Summit as an unprecedented attempt to rid the world of the scourge of warzone rape and supports the efforts of William Hague and UN special envoy Angelina Jolie to replace the culture of impunity for sexual violence in conflict with one of deterrence.
However, CARE believes the Summit is a real opportunity to go further than the narrow focus on the prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators. It is an opportunity to tackle the root causes of violence against women.
To do this we need to shift global attitudes to women – and that means teaching boys and young men to challenge and change attitudes to sexual violence and overcome everyday sexism.
Alice Allan, Global Head of Advocacy at CARE International and advisor to Hague on his Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, said: "We will not end warzone rape unless we tackle its root causes. From Nigeria to India, sickening attacks on women and girls are a daily occurrence around the world. Ministers attending the Summit must use this moment to galvanise action to shift global attitudes to women.
"Gender inequality is not a 'women's issue' – it concerns every member of every society. Men and boys can and must be allies and champions for change and this, in turn, can stop the cycle of violence from spreading to the next generation.
"We are calling for governments around the world to recognise that teaching boys to challenge their attitudes towards women by learning about respectful relationships and inequality can help prevent sexual violence, both in times of peace and during conflict."
CARE believes that this cycle of violent discrimination against girls and women can – and must – change. As the Summit takes place, women in South Sudan are being tied up and raped as they seek safety from the conflict. This is the most vile and extreme form of attack but the picture of discrimination is true world-over – in the UK a poll revealed that around one in three girls (29%) have experienced unwanted sexual touching in schools and at least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence.
CARE''s work in conflict and post-conflict settings has shown that working with men and boys really can break the cycle of violence, especially where there is commitment to teaching on gender inequality in schools.*
Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, travelled to Kosovo to see CARE's work with teenage boys in an inner city school in the capital Pristina. She said: "The findings of the Everyday Sexism Project have clearly shown that gender inequality, sexism, discrimination and sexual violence are rife in countries around the world.
"Many of the young people I meet are confused about sexual consent and healthy relationships. There are so many influences on teenage boys telling them what it means to be a man, what it means to have sex, what it means to treat a woman in a particular way.
"Seeing CARE's work in Kosovo was an incredibly positive, inspiring and affirming example of what education can do to really change the kind of attitudes and ideas about women that can become engrained from such an early age.
"Both in a post-conflict setting and more widely, such attitude change is vital if we are to tackle sexual violence at its root. This is an international problem, and we could take a real step forward if governments around the world committed to putting these issues on the national curriculum."
Add your voice to the call for schools around the world to teach young people about sexual consent and respectful relationships by putting it on the national education curriculum. Sign the change.org petition #challengeattitudes
Our full Summit policy position paper can be found here.
CARE is hosting two events at the Summit, including 'When the soldiers come home' chaired by Laura Bates featuring UK veterans' mental health charity Combat Stress and experts from Bosnia and Rwanda. For timings and further information, and a full media briefing pack click here
*CARE's work in the Balkans, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi has shown that working with men and boys really can break the cycle of violence. In Pristina, Kosovo, for example, 73% of young male adults now say it is wrong to use violence against an unfaithful partner, compared to 48% before. In parts of the Balkans, our work to teach boys and young men about respect, consent and non-violence in relationships has been scaled up by the government and is already on the school curriculum.
Further context: Globally, one in three women will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. The impact of this global epidemic is far reaching. According to the World Bank, gender-based violence accounts for as much death and ill-health in women aged 15-44 years as cancer does. It is a greater cause of ill-health than malaria and traffic accidents combined.
The Everyday Sexism Project is active in 18 countries including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, France, Germany and Netherlands.
Press office contacts
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CARE International is a leading humanitarian organisation which fights global poverty and provides lifesaving assistance in emergencies. We place special focus on working with poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to help lift families and communities out of poverty.
CARE International UK co-ordinates our work on women, peace and security globally. For more information, visit www.careinternational.org.uk