Angelina Joliehas opened a pioneering rape study centre at the London School of Economics. The research unit - which is the first of its kind in Europe - will tackle violence against women in war zones and is the latest step in a campaign founded by the 39-year-old actress and British politician William Hague, in 2012, to prevent the use of rape as a weapon of war.
Speaking at the launch in central London yesterday, The Guardian reports that Jolie – who is a special envoy for the UN high commissioner for refugees – called for ‘the empowerment of women to be the highest priority for the finest minds, in the best academic institutions’. She then went on to speak of her most recent UN trip to northern Iraq where she met with refugees who had been rooted out of their homes due to the escalating violence of ISIS.
Jolie said: ‘If you were to ask me who I think this centre is for, I picture someone who is not in this room today, I think of a girl I met in Iraq three weeks ago. She is 13 years old, but instead of going to school, she sits on the floor in a makeshift tent.’
The actress-turned-director then told of the girl’s harrowing story and how she was captured by ISIS and forced into sexual slavery and repeatedly raped: ‘Now she may never be able to complete her education, or get married or have a family, because in her society victims of rape are shunned, and considered shameful. To my mind, what we have begun today at LSE is for that Iraqi girl and others like her.’
William Hague also pledged that the UK government would provide £1m of funding, whilst he also read out messages of support from Hillary Rodham Clinton, who called rape in war zones the ‘unfinished business of the 21st century’ and spoke of the importance of the new LSE centre to help give women ‘the tools and resources to break the barriers that keep them from contributing and participating fully in their governments, economies and societies.