It is fantastic that William Hague is taking the issue of sexual violence seriously by hosting the world’s first global summit on the subject here in the UK. But he needs to make sure that the summit is more than a talking shop. Actions need to lie behind the words.
In particular, Hague would be a hypocrite if his Government allowed victims of sexual violence to be deported back to countries where they could face further abuse. And his “team of experts” whose role is to track down the perpetrators of sexual violence have not been deployed to take down the testimony of Sri Lankan victims. In fact Sri Lanka wasn’t even anywhere on the conference agenda.
That was the thrust of our campaign, and after a lot of activity yesterday we had a breakthrough. Sri Lanka’s omission from the conference became big news and William Hague was forced to announce that he would be investigating claims that rape victims are being deported back to Sri Lanka.
This is fantastic, but this makes it all the more urgent that deportations be stopped. And his team of experts still need to be deployed to track down the perpetrators.
Activist Bianca Jagger sent a number of tweets to the British Government, and a number of people shared our slogan in imaginative ways.
Last night we also took part in an event at the Canadian High Commissioner’s residence at which a number of high profile women (and one man) read aloud the testimonies of victims of sexual violence – testimonies that the victims wanted the world to hear but which they couldn’t give themselves because of the risk of retaliation against their families.
Jenni Murray introduced the event, then MIA, Maryam D’Arbo, Bianca Jagger, Cara Delevingne (via video), and Bashana Abeywardane read out testimonies of rape victims. You can see the whole thing here and MIA and Cara Delevingne’s videos are below:
WARNING these videos contain graphic descriptions of rape and sexual torture that may be traumatic to watch, particularly if you have personal experience of these issues.
And there is a photo album here.
We hope William Hague got the message. But to be sure we now need your help.
We must make sure that William Hague does not backtrack on his promise to review asylum applications, and we must make sure his promise does not come too late for some victims. We think the most effective thing right now would be to write to your member of parliament and ask them to keep the pressure on.
We suggest sending the following message:
William Hague announced in the Guardian on Tuesday June 10th that he would investigate cases featuring victims of sexual violence in Sri Lanka at risk of deportation. This is fantastic news, and very welcome. But it may be too late for some rape victims who risk being deported at any moment.
It is vitally important that deportations be halted until William Hague’s investigation has taken place, otherwise he may discover that mistakes have been made that cannot be unmade, as people are sent back to their deaths or worse.
Moreover the victims of sexual violence want justice, and the most effective thing William Hague could do to ensure that they get justice would be for him to deploy his team of experts to take down the testimony of survivors.
Please write to the Foreign Secretary on my behalf, and ask him to urgently intervene to stop sexual torture in Sri Lanka.
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