Stopping sexual violence - it's time to act. Time to deliver.

Much has been written about violence against women over the last few weeks. More than 200 girls kidnapped in north eastern Nigeria by the Boko Haram. Meriam Ibrahim sentenced to death for apostasy and adultery in Sudan. Two girls gang-raped and then hanged in Uttar Pradesh, India. Farzana Parveen, a young, pregnant Pakistani woman, brutally stoned to death by her family following a disputed marriage.  Two women a week murdered by a partner or former partner in the UK – nurse Rui Li among them last month.

Make no mistake. The outrage, in the media and in response by the public – demonstrated by the strength of support for our urgent actions on Boko Haram and Meriam Ibrahim, with over 250,000 people taking action to date – is right.

This war on women is centuries old. It happens in times of peace and war. It affects the lives of women in every country on this planet. But sometimes it is easier to create a tsunami of outrage when it is happening to women elsewhere.

We often view things through a different lens. And different standards for how we report and respond to violence in different places.  If two young women were gang-raped and hanged in London, the pictures of their bodies, still hanging from a tree would not have been broadcast and beamed around the world.

We treat these abuses differently – but they are all part of the same continuum.  They all begin and end with gender inequality and the power and control which men continue to exert over women around the world.

Amidst these totemic examples of the extreme violence women and girls continue to experience globally, every day, every hour, the End Sexual Violence in Conflict Global Summit starts today in the Excel Centre in east London.

This is an important initiative with an incredibly ambitious goal - to end sexual violence in conflict.  Over the last two years it has secured declarations from the G8 and the UN General Assembly as well as two new Security Council Resolutions. It has put this issue higher on the global political map than ever before, with significant political capital behind it. This has value and must be applauded.

But – and it is an important but - a summit alone cannot end sexual violence in conflict.  Only an end to gender inequality globally can achieve this.

We must remember that we have not come close to ending gender based and sexual violence even in London, let alone the broader United Kingdom. Despite the fact we have (in relative global terms) a lot of resources and strong statutory services, and stronger commitments to gender equality than many other countries.

Amnesty has a detailed list of demands for the governments attending the summit. They need to move beyond just words this week, and commit both to concrete change and the money needed to make this a reality.

We will be watching. The outrage building globally about the ongoing war on women’s bodies must be harnessed. It is time to act.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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