THURROCK MP Jackie Doyle Price rose on the floor of the House of Commons to speak on a debate on sexual violence.
Ms Doyle Price said: “I am very pleased to be able to speak in this debate on the very important issue of preventing sexual violence in conflict and I congratulate my hon. Friend Anthony Mangnall on bringing this matter to the House. We probably do not spend enough time tackling these humanitarian issues in this place—we spend far too much time playing knockabout—but this country is at its best when it shows global leadership on these humanitarian matters.
“We know that sexual violence is a weapon of war. It has been since time immemorial, but perhaps only in recent years have we collectively faced up to that. That might be the case for any number of reasons. Interestingly, it is a fundamental part of the strategy where conflicts are between ethnicities and, when we think about it, it is pretty obvious why. Although we readily talk about the murders and killings that take place as part of an ethnic genocide, we talk rather less about the rape and sexual violence that is associated with it. That has to change. We need to face up to the fact that men are perpetrating terrible, heinous, evil acts against women and girls specifically, but also against men and boys. Rape and sexual violence are being used as a way of exerting power, and humiliating and degrading people. We need to show that and shame the perpetrators out of it. Things such as the Geneva convention have pointed out international and multilateral actions against gratuitous execution, and we need to do exactly the same about rape and sexual violence.
“I think that “sexual violence” is often a vanilla-sounding term for something that is fundamentally evil, so let us call it what it is. It is rape; forced incest; mutilation; and buggery. It is the ultimate defiling of human beings, and the ultimate corruption of an act that should be about love and intimacy. In that sense, it is a crime against humanity and one that we should show global leadership on in tackling.
I am very proud that William Hague, when Foreign Secretary, showed that global leadership on the issue by establishing this initiative. It was a very personal interest of his and in that sense he put it front and centre of foreign policy at the time. I hope we can use this presidency of the G7 to reboot that agenda, particularly in the light of the other ethnic conflicts going on in the world at this time, which we have heard about in previous speeches.
I remind the Government that this is entirely complementary to their wider policy towards women and girls. Domestically, we are for the first time having a proper violence against women and girls strategy, so it makes perfect sense to take that into the international field. At the heart of our international aid programmes is the focus on education for girls around the world. We recognise the immensely civilising influence that the education of girls has on societies. So it is absolutely consistent that we put the prevention of sexual violence at the heart of our future agenda.
As I said earlier, since the dawn of time, rape has been a weapon of war and it is important that we continue to treat it as a serious crime as we prosecute on a global basis, but it is only recently that we have begun to understand just how prevalent it is. It is only by making sure that we spread that understanding of how prevalent it is that we will encourage anyone to take action.
The conflict in Bosnia was the first time the international community recognised properly that rape was being used as part of the military strategy. We understand that there were as many as 50,000 rapes during that conflict. When we think that each of us represents 80,000 constituents, it brings home how significant this is. When we remember Srebrenica, we always remember the murder of all those men and boys, but we never talk about the rapes. I was a student at university during that conflict. I remember seeing the pictures of the camps and the shelling in Sarajevo, and hearing about the fact that this was an ethnic conflict between Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs, but I never heard about the rapes. We will not be able to take actions until we are honest about this. We should not just see this as an inevitable fact of any ethnic conflict. We have to call it out for what it is and say that it is unacceptable. I am pleased that, in prosecuting the war crimes following the conflict in Bosnia, rape was included. It was seen as a genocide and as a crime against humanity.
It is inevitable in an ethnic conflict that rape will be a fundamental part of the strategy. Again, we need to highlight exactly what we are talking about. In the Bosnian conflict, rape camps were established where women were systematically raped and released only once they were pregnant. Gang rape and public rapes were common. Men were forced to rape their family members. There was one report of a 14-year-old boy being forced to rape his mother. Forced oral sex and forced anal sex were also common, and in some prisons detainees were forced to rape other men. How horrific that this should be happening just 20 years ago in Europe. Once we face the facts about sexual violence in conflict, we cannot look the other way. This country is a great country that shows leadership on these matters, and it should please continue to do so.