This week, the evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins tweeted this to nearly one million followers: "Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think." Before that, he had tweeted: "X is bad. Y is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of X, go away and don't come back until you've learned how to think logically."Interesting for me, because - there's no subtle way to say this - I know exactly what it's like to be raped with knives involved.
Here is a young woman in a popular holiday destination for those with a limited budget - I'm not going to assume that she's working class, but I'm certain the journalists will have done. She having fun, she's drinking, she's apparently being sexual on her own terms. Someone filmed it and the whole thing went viral - oops. Enter the tabloids with their guidebook to acceptable women's behaviour and pronounce her unclean, apparently we've found a "new low" ... It's not long before social media is calling her "actual vermin" and a "repulsive slag". I failed to find anyone (other than feminists) criticising the men in any way, the woman in question has had her name and photo all over the internet today; where are the men?
As I learned from this event - and from the Global Summit in general - the effects of globalisation and immigration mean that the West can no longer sit back and allow the suffering of ethnic groups, particularly as some of their members now walk the streets of our egalitarian nation. Hopefully, this modest event was a first step in creating a dialogue between Somali victims and the international community about the reality of life as a minority in Somalia, and what we can do to help.
This week has seen a flurry of activity around an issue that for far too long has been forgotten, silenced or viewed as an inevitable consequence of war: sexual violence in conflict. All of this is extremely important - but in the rush to 'do something' about the horrific crimes being committed in Syria, Central African Republic, Nigeria, and other conflict zones, we should not forget some basic premises.
For too long violence against women has been viewed as 'a women's issue'- and when it comes to politics, the issue is usually given to the 'gender ministry' or tagged onto the role of a female minister whatever her official portfolio might be. Whilst working at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), I remember how civil servants were scurrying around trying to find a woman (Lynne Featherstone as it turned out) to be the government's champion on violence against women and girls globally. But at the time she was a Home Office Minister. Why weren't we asking the male foreign secretary to be the champion? The person who has the ability to discuss these issues at the highest levels with their male counterparts?
During my years in Bosnia, both during the war and afterwards I heard and saw evidence of horrific stories of mass rape and sexual violence committed during the war. Thousands of women and children suffered terrible abuse and the physical and mental scars could stay with survivors for the rest of their lives. Years later, sexual violence still remains entrenched in conflict zones around the world and children are often the most vulnerable. Children suffering in conflicts are growing up in a world where they face the daily threat of rape and abuse and sexual violence is considered the 'norm'.
Foreign Secretary William Hague deserves a lot of credit for helping to persuade the Burmese government to sign this declaration, but he should remember Thein Sein's broken promise on releasing all political prisoners by the end of last year, and keep up the pressure to make sure he keeps his word this time.
Consent is a word we may think we have an understanding of, given its commonplace and importance in the law. But when it comes to sex and relationships we need to clarify and talk far more openly about it, particularly in schools, to help combat the widespread sexual violence against women; a problem that is reaching alarming levels.
One of the reasons why there is difficulty in a public discussion and not an open forum about sexual assault is that those who have experienced it and are therefore credible to talk about don't because of the attitudes shown towards the victims. In fact only a small percentage actually report the crime for fear of not being believed. Why are there still these warped and very sad misconceptions of a crime so devastating? This societal view of victim blaming leads to further victim suffering, miscarriages of justice and a continuing risk to our loved ones. Why do we victim blame? Is it to protect our own vulnerability?
UNICEF works tirelessly to protect children from sexual violence in every conflict zone around the world. From working with governments to reform laws, to supporting communities to challenge beliefs on gender roles - UNICEF teams work around the clock to protect children and support those who have experienced sexual violence.
Despite the criticism of armchair activism, this could be a watershed moment if attention surrounding these events can transform into something altogether more sustained and ambitious. If we can seize the momentum of interest and look beyond the immediate ambition to #bringbackourgirls, it could be possible to shape a world where we #protectallgirls.
The ECCHR and PIL Communication to the International Court affirms this when it states that those most responsible for British War Crimes are not the soldiers but those "high ranking civilian and military officials" reluctant to prosecute. If the Communication is successful, and the ICC is forced to act, these officials may yet be held to account.