U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his British counterpart, William Hague, are adding their weight to the international effort to stop sexual violence in armed conflicts. Rape has been used worldwide as a tool to subdue and demoralize individuals and tear apart communities. Although most of the victims are women, men and boys also have been targeted. Kerry and Hague on Tuesday participated in a discussion in Washington about measures to curb this type of crime.
Armed forces use sexual violence as the spoils of war for their soldiers or to terrorize populations they want to subdue or force to flee their homes. Kerry said that this kind of violence has too long gone unpunished, and the United States wants to change that.
"No one, and I mean no one, at the highest level of military or governance who has presided over or engaged in or knew of or conducted these kinds of attacks is ever going to receive a visa to travel into the United States of America from this day forward," said Kerry.
Kerry said every U.S. embassy and foreign mission will be alerted to this decision.
"There has to be a price attached,” said Kerry.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that in recent years, sexual violence in conflicts in Bosnia, Darfur, Liberia, Guatemala and many other places have been amply documented, and the subject can no longer be ignored.
"It's a moral responsibility, but it's also about preventing conflict, about helping communities to work together after conflict that is a fundamental part of conflict prevention as well as a crucial moral cause of our time," said Hague.
Hague said what has been missing in the international combat against this type of violence is the major governments throwing their weight behind it. He said Britain's participation will make a difference because the country has one of the world's biggest diplomatic networks.
United Nations Special Representative Zainab Hawa Bangura stressed the importance of male participation in combating a crime that affects women the most. She said the United Nations has put in place resolutions against sexual violence.
"The challenge is actually… How do we make sure at the national level that the governments takes ownership and responsibility and implement the decisions that we have agreed at the United Nations?" said Bangura.
Bangura said that having 140 countries sign a resolution against sexual violence has made a difference. She said an obligation to prevent sexual violence is now part of every negotiation for a peace agreement.
Cathy Russell, ambassador at large for global women's issues, said mobile courts used in the Democratic Republic of Congo have proved to be faster and more effective than international courts in punishing those responsible for wartime sexual violence.
"We have judges, Congolese prosecutors, judges who go out and who travel around and they hear the cases in the communities. It takes two weeks to be heard and justice is meted out immediately," said Russell.
Russell said it is very important for victims to see justice happen in front of them.
Kerry and Hague stressed that the best way to curb the crime is to punish the perpetrators. Britain will host a major international conference on sexual violence in conflict in London in June.