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Journalists and human rights defenders speak out at summit on sexual violence in conflict

05 June 2014 - Journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima, a survivor of sexual violence in Colombia’s conflict, is in the UK to attend the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. There she will highlight the ongoing impunity for crimes of sexual violence in the country’s continuing internal armed conflict.

Alongside journalists and human rights defenders from Egypt and Mexico, Jineth will speak at a fringe event on 12 June organised by Christian Aid partners ABColombia and Peace Brigades International (PBI) looking at the risks entailed for those who speak out on the issue.

The summit will be co-chaired by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

‘For the first time in history, a world summit highlights and denounces a crime that is normally made invisible and is often silenced by the majority of States’ said Jineth Bedoya Lima.

Editor-in-Chief at Egypt’s Daily News, Rana Allam, will also speak at the fringe event. Last year, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women reported that 99.3% of Egyptian women have been subjected to some form of sexual harassment.

‘Female reporters and activists suffer sexual abuse ranging from virginity tests conducted by the state, to group attacks on women during protests, and to the sexual violence practiced on women (and men) who are detained for protesting or opposing the state, all of which are escalating in Egypt’, said Ms Allam.

The fringe event, ‘Sexual Violence: Costs of speaking out for journalists and human rights defenders. Experiences from Colombia, Mexico and Egypt’, will take place on Thursday 12 June from 16.30-18.00 in Discussion Room 2, London ExCel Centre.

It will be chaired by Channel 4’s Lindsey Hilsum and will look at the factors which have made women human rights activists and journalists so vulnerable to sexual violence, and the changes needed to enable them to speak out without fear.

Ending impunity is a major focus for those working to end sexual violence in conflict. In the case of Egypt, Rana Allam said, ‘A culture of impunity is prevalent in the country, where the attackers are never arrested, the complaints are treated lightly and those complaining pressed into withdrawing their allegations. If a case makes it to court, it is usually dismissed, and the plaintiff faces social condemnation.The empowerment of women and quick, just punishment of attackers both remain absent in Egypt’.

Claudia Mejia, Director of NGO Sisma Mujer in Colombia, also a speaker at the event said, ‘A major theme of the summit is access to justice for survivors. It is therefore essential to see concrete measures agreed, measures that will ensure that States implement the declaration they made last year when they committed to end sexual violence in conflict’.

Jineth Bedoya Lima added, ‘We hope our visit to London will move the world to react to this heinous crime suffered by thousands of women’.

Louise Winstanley, ABColombia Programme and Advocacy Manager said:  ‘This summit has raised the hopes of many. It is therefore essential that the British Government delivers on its commitments and provides long-term support to civil society organisations, without which there is little possibility of any survivor of warzone sexual violence to get justice or psychosocial support in Colombia.’

If you would like further information please contact Jo Rogers jrogers@christian-aid.org 020 7523 2460 or 24 hour press duty phone – 07850 242950

Notes to editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 50 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change www.christianaid.org.uk/images/partnership-for-change-summary.pdf explains how we set about this task.

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