European Parliament Campaigns to End Violence Against Women

Labour Party




Violence against women graphics

Violence against women graphics 2

The European Parliament is doing great work to combat violence against women. During the last Strasbourg plenary session we passed a legislative resolution requesting the European Commission to present an EU-wide strategy and an action plan to combat violence against women.

The report went on to encourage the Commission to adopt the first steps towards establishing a European observatory on violence against women and also urged them to establish an EU year to end violence against women within the next three years.

Everywoman Safe Everywhere

Labour Party

Since the Tory cuts began, women have been seen to bear the greatest impact in every area of life. One area of growing concern for me is the negative effect of the cuts on women’s safety. 

The safety of women across the country is increasingly at risk. It is at risk because of reductions in police numbers, as seen in my London constituency, and it is at risk because councils are cutting back on street lights in an effort to save money.

It is also at risk because organisations which support women to leave abusive relationships or jobs in which they are sexually exploited and abused have lost their funding. These are organisations like the Derby Women’s Centre which is currently under threat of closure as a result of cuts to its funding. My colleague Glenis Willmott, MEP for the East Midlands and Labour’s  Leader in Europe, spoke out against the cuts to its funding yesterday.

A number of women’s refuges and other specialist organisations which offer a safe space for women who have been abused are also suffering as a result of the cuts. Such organisations provide crucial support to victims of domestic violence, women who have been trafficked and the homeless. Last year I spoke a lot about the Poppy Project and the cuts to its funding. The Poppy project is an excellent organisation which provides support to survivors of trafficking.

For some of the most vulnerable women, like those who have recently left abusive relationships, access to a crisis loan can be an important resource. This is especially true if a woman has had to leave behind her possessions when escaping her abuser. This type of emergency loan can assist her in starting to rebuild her life.

Recent welfare reform proposals shift the control of such crisis funds to already stretched local authorities with no checks to ensure the funding is spent on providing crisis support.

They also rather ludicrously suggest that councils could provide support in kind rather than money to people who apply for crisis funds. Women who have taken the brave move of leaving abusive partners should not have to suffer the lack of autonomy and indignity associated with receiving food parcels.

A coalition of 20 charities, including Banardo’s and Women’s Aid, has called for the ring-fencing of funds to provide crisis loans in a letter to the Guardian last weekend. You can read the letter here.

In response to the ever increasing impact of Tory cuts on women’s safety, the Labour Party is carrying out a Public Consultation.

The Consultation was opened shortly before the Christmas break but I felt given the hectic holiday period it might be a good idea to revisit it with you now we are in the New Year.

The findings from the Consultation will be used get a clearer picture of the cumulative impact of tory decision making and to develop legislative measures that could be used to make women safer. It will also be used as an opportunity to consult on Labour’s proposals for a new Personal Safety Bill.

The consultation is chaired by Vera Baird QC who will be supported by Kate Green MP (Shadow Minister for Equalities) and Stella Creasy MP (Shadow Minister for Crime Prevention).

If you would like to find out more about the consultation or take part, please visit the Everywoman Safe Everywhere website. Together we can make Britain a safer place for women.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Labour Party

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Violence Against Women is a global problem. It is a global problem which is a symptom of discrimination against women, but it does not discriminate between them.

Violence against women affects women from all walks of life, from all countries, from all religions and at all ages. In the UK alone more than 40% of women have experienced some form of violence against them, violence that has been carried out purely on the basis that they are women.

It can take the form of domestic violence, rape and sexual violence, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, crimes in the name of “honour”, trafficking and sexual exploitation.

In the European Parliament  over the last week there have been several discussions about violence against women. In part this is a result of the European Commission’s seemingly regressive attitude towards tackling the problem which I spoke about here on Wednesday.

I am also still  incredibly worried about the repercussions of the EU no longer having a dedicated programme to combat violence against women following the Commission’s proposals to cut the Daphne Programme and divide its functions between two larger umbrella programmes. I recently blogged about this.

The programme, which has been running since 1997, provides vital support for organisations that work to prevent violence against women, children and other vulnerable people. Daphne has never been favoured by great amounts of funding from the Commission, but it has assisted over 500 projects since it was created in 1997. I speak about some of the projects it has supported here.

But there is much more to the Daphne programme than the funding it provides. It represents the united voice of Europe in saying that violence against women and children is not acceptable, that this kind of violence will not be tolerated and that ending violence is on the European agenda.  

In getting rid of the Daphne programme and in ignoring the almost unanimous call for an EU wide Directive from the European Parliament, what message is the Commission sending out to perpetrators of violence against women and children?

The basic cause of violence against women is inequality. I’m not denying progress has been made. This is seen in the number of girls in higher education, the shifting attitudes towards more family friendly flexible working and the anger at the way that the Tory cuts are affecting women so disproportionately.

Yet we still have a long way to go. The gender pay gap in Europe is 17%, the glass ceiling is still alive and well and there is noweher near adequate and affordable childcare. Violence against women is an extreme example of the discrimination women still face. The EU’s Daphne Programme played an important role in combatting anti-female abuse and we muct do everything we can to fight for its survival. It’s shameful indeed that the current round of public expenditure cuts are falling on such importnat work. We must all fight for Daphne and for those women who so badly need its services.

The European Commission refuses a Directive on Combatting Violence against Women

Labour Party

This blog can today reveal that the European Commission will not now be introducing the long-awaited Directive to Combat Violence against Women. The European Parliament Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (Femm) Committee has championed such a Directive for several years, and the Parliament itself adopted a resolution calling for the directive almost unanimously in April this year.

During a seminar on EU action to end violence against women, hosted by FEMM chair Mikael Gustafsson, a representative from the Commission explicitly put forward that there were no plans for a directive in the near future. 

The representative suggested that this was because the EU lacked the competence to put forward such a Directive and said there was no real legal basis for it.  You may be interested to know that the excuse of no legal basis is sometimes used when there is a lack of motivation to act on a subject. 

Violence against women is an attack on basic human rights. As far as I am aware the Charter of Fundamental rights, which came into force in 2009, protects the human rights of all European citizens regardless of gender.   

I struggle to understand, that when 98% of European Citizens have said they are aware of the phenomenon of domestic violence why there remains a lack of political will at the top to bring it to an end! 

The spokesperson of Women against Violence Europe (WAVE) drew parallels with the old argument of the “private” nature of domestic violence. This was a time before people fully grasped the insidious effect that this crime has throughout society and didn’t see the need for it to be dealt with in the public sphere. 

This blow comes on top of the changes to the excellent Daphne programme, a key instrument in bringing an end to violence against women, which I recently spoke about

The Commission seems to believe that stopping violence against women is too insignificant to deserve a programme of its own. 

If Commissioner Reding’s proposals for the future financial programme are agreed in the Parliament and the Council, the six core elements that make up Daphne will be merged. Some actions will fall under the umbrella of Rights and Citizenship whilst the others will come under the heading of Justice. 

One NGO has suggested that these changes could lead to budget cuts equivalent to 16% of the already under funded programme in EU action on combatting violence against women. 

It appears to me that whilst the citizens of Europe are becoming increasingly enlightened about the damage caused by violence against women, those at the top are looking away at the very moment when they need to be taking action.

The Daphne Programme is at risk

Labour Party

I  was disappointed and incredibly concerned to hear that the Daphne Programme is once again at risk of being withdrawn. Daphne is one of the key tools in preventing violence against women at the European Level.

I have talked about the great work of the Daphne programme several times before. This fantastic programme is aimed at the protection of children, young people and women against all forms of violence and at attaining a high level of health protection, well being and social cohesion for vulnerable groups.

Just a few of the issues the programme deals with are the prevention of domestic abuse, trafficking, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation and sexual assault.

The programme has been running since 2000 and is now in its third cycle. In 2011 the budget allocated to the project was just over 18 million Euros or around 0.001% of the overall EU budget for the year.

Violence against women is believed to have affected up to 45% of the EU female population. It is estimated to cost EU Member States as much as 16 billion Euros every year – or one million Euros every half hour.

The difference to people’s lives that has been made by investing the equivalent of just over 1% of the total cost felt by member states into the Daphne programme is massive. I simply can’t understand why the commission isn’t instead increasing its support for this programme.

In the UK alone, funding has been provided to over 120 organisations since the programme began. These range from the Met Police and several London Boroughs to charities such as Banardos, Refuge and Childline.

Some of the vital projects that have received funding from the Daphne are Eaves Housing for Women who assessed the health needs of victims of trafficking. Funding has also been used to advance cooperation between Member States on issues such as missing children.

A cut in EU support would be another blow to charities working in the prevention of violence and abuse. So many, like the Poppy Project which I have long been a supporter of, are already suffering following he recent UK government cuts to their funding.

Coalition for a European Year to End Violence against Women

The issue of violence against women is not going away in the EU. In light of the danger faced by the Daphne programme it even appears support for bringing it to an end is getting weaker.

This is why I support the European Women’s Lobby’s Coalition for a European Year to End Violence against Women. A dedicated European Year would refocus attention on a problem that continues to persist across Europe yet is increasingly ignored. It would definately mark a step towards a more proactive approach to ending violence against women.

Let’s Talk About Rape.

Labour Party

Throughout recent weeks the UK press has been unusually dominated with stories relating to rape, infidelities by powerful men and the sex industry. The stories have ranged from a leader of an exceptionally prominent organisation being arrested and charged for sexual assault, a British minister finding himself tripping over both of his left feet into a pit of indignant fire for trying to distinguish between “proper rape” and, well, that other kind of rape, to an insurance industry rewarding its employees with prostitutes. 

Between them however these stories have exposed the myriad complexities, prejudices and myths which continue to pervade both in the press and the public conscience about rape and about women. Which is why I think now is a good time to talk about rape. So, let’s talk about rape.

Firstly, I think we need to clear up what rape actually is. Although different countries and bodies define rape differently, we can use British law for the purposes of this discussion. According to British law, rape involves forced penetration (of either variety and for both sexes), done without consent. Given that this definition is fairly clear and simple, I have been ashtonished to find that so many people still persist in thinking there are many different types of rape. Apologists for this viewpoint argue that some rapes are violent, or multiple, or abusive. But that doesn’t change the rape aspect of the crime; that simply means that the rapist has committed additional crimes or aggravating factors. If a man abducts a woman and commits a violent rape upon her he is charged not with “really bad rape” but with rape, abduction, assault and possibly ABH or GBH. Simarly if a woman is gang-raped, all of the men who raped her are charged with rape. This is because she was raped more than once, not because she experienced a “worse” rape.

I believe that ultimately this dialogue in more serious/less serious rape is based upon a notion that there are gradations of consent (and the refusal of it). This is because, given that rape is penetration without consent, (discounting for additional crimes or rapes committed during, previous or after the rape in question), any notion of “worse” or “more serious” rape must lie in an evaluation of the degree of consent (or lack of it) involved.  For instance a women who was date-raped is viewed to have mildly refused her consent whilst a woman abducted by a stranger has strongly refused her consent.

To elaborate upon this point, I now move on to the debate surrounding the accusations made against Strauss-Kahn.  Now, I do not mean to presume that Strauss-Kahn is guilty simply because he was accused and I am a feminist. It is entirely possible that he is innocent and, whilst we may be able to form a clearer viewpoint after the court case, ultimately the only people who will ever know the complete truth about what happened in that hotel room were the two in it at the time. What bothers me however is the reasons many people are giving for why they believe Strauss-Kahn to be innocent; such as “he didn’t need to rape, he was rich and powerful”, and just like all the other rich and powerful men who have been shown to have been cheating on their wives this week, it is assumed to be a natural thing that there would be numerous women willing to engage in consensual sex with him.

Aside from indicating a total lack of understanding about why men rape, this shows our attitude to men, rapists and women. There is in this argument both the assumption that by being successful Strauss-Kahn has disqualified himself from being a potential rapist, and that rapists are only men who cannot gain consensual sex. Both of these are fallacies, but commonly accepted. The reasons for this tie back to the assumption that Strauss-Kahn’s success has somehow earned him the consent of women, because women’s consent is something that can be quantified and bought.

This leads us on to the story of the insurance giant which rewarded its top staff with prostitutues. What is especially telling about this story is not just that these successful men were rewarded with sexual gratification (or that this sheds another angle on possible reasons women are kept out of boardrooms) but that these women wore labels showing which men they were available to. The “highest class” ones were only available to executives. What this shows us is a snapshot of a society where men compete against other men to be successful and in return are rewarded according to their success with sexual gratification and access to women’s bodies.

 It is this culture in which women are viewed as commodities and status symbols that leads many to presume that Strauss-Kahn is innocent: Through being rich and successful he had become entitled to sexual access to a multitude of women. This is also why people believe that there are different types of rape – because there are different degrees of non-consent, because consent is something you can earn or have a right to. Bacially, in the popular mindset women are still something you buy, own or be entitled to. This isn’t just a view held by men but by any woman who has ever felt obliged to consent to sex. A date-rape is less bad than a stranger-rape because he had earned part of your consent by taking you out and treating you to dinner. If you get drunk/are promiscuous/dress ‘sluttily’ the rape is less bad because you have shown both that you are a lower price good and that your consent is more easily bought. There is a smaller degree of non-consent for a rapist to overcome so, during a rape, less consent is considered to have been refused than might otherwise be the case had you been sober/a nun/wearing baggy trousers.

Many people argue that the reason for the shockingly low conviction rates in the UK (6%) is because rape is a difficult crime to prove. But if that is the case why is the conviction rate for male rape so much higher? (419 convictions out of 532 cases in UK magistrates Courts in 1994). Why is rape of women treated so diffferently than rape of men? The reason – becuase juries and the public still view women’s bodies as commodities, heterosexual sex as an economic transaction and women’s consent as something that can be bought. Rape of women is viewed as something more akin to theft, a commodity not paid for but taken anyway. A crime, but not a serious one and whose gravity can be judged by evaluating the good that was stolen (by asking what the woman was wearing or about her previous sex life).

 This state of affairs will only change when women and men realise that women’s bodies are not commodities, and not even that “women’s bodies belong to them” as the slutwalkers would have it, but that women’s bodies are them. Women’s bodies cannot be bought, given, sold, taken or refused. It is not a bargaining tool. Sex is not a transaction. Rape is not theft: It is a violation of a woman’s person, of who she is. When our society recognises that they will finally start punishing rape in the way it should be punished and respecting women as equal integral members of society.

The Coalition is undermining Europe’s deal on violence against women

Labour Party

In The Times last week, it was revealed that the UK Government has taken worrying steps to water-down the Council of Europe’s Draft Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

The Coalition has two main objections. Firstly, it has proposed to remove the reference to violence against women as a violation of human rights, replacing it with: ‘violence against women constitutes a serious obstacle for women’s enjoyment of human rights.’ The Government has offered no explanation for this proposed change. However it is clearly ludicrous. Violence against women is a structural phenomenon which both reflects and reinforces inequities between men and women. It has been recognised as a violation of human rights in international law for nearly two decades.

Secondly, the Government wants to amend the document so that it applies only in times of peace and not in times of conflict.

Article 2 as currently drafted reads as follows:

Scope of the Convention

1. This Convention shall apply to all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, which affects women disproportionately.

2. Parties are encouraged to apply this Convention to all victims of domestic violence. Parties shall pay particular attention to women victims of gender-based violence in implementing the provisions of this Convention.

3. This Convention shall apply in times of peace and in situations of armed conflicts

Under the Tories, Britain has proposed to delete the reference to armed conflict in Article 2(3).

This amendment is also totally nonsensical. Studies show that violence against women tends to rise during and after armed conflict. Rape is internationally-recognised as a tool of war, carried out to terrorise the population and destroy communities. In the DRC, rape has been practiced as a means of warfare by all groups in the conflict. In Rwanda, during the 1994 genocide, an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 women were raped. This Convention will be seriously undermined if it only applies in peacetime.

The Coalition has publically stated its commitment to tackling violence against women. Yet behind closed doors it is sabotaging a document intended to ensure robust action to prevent, investigate and prosecute violence against women. We must do all we can to protest against the Coalition’s ill-thought out and damaging proposals.

International Women’s Day Event on Violence against Women

Labour Party

This year International Women’s Day was celebrated a week later than usual in the European Parliament, with most of the major events taking place on 16th March rather than the 8th. On Tuesday morning, members of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee organised a hearing on the theme of violence against women, with national parliaments, press and NGOs invited to discuss the issue. Violence against women is a subject that I have blogged about on several occasions, and it is an issue that the European Parliament has tried to address at every available opportunity, particularly since the take over of the Spanish Presidency.

The event was opened by the President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, giving a supportive speech for women subject to violence. It was followed by an address by Bibiana Aído Almagro, who is the Spanish Minister for Gender Equality. She underlined that no society can hope to achieve full gender equality if violence against women cannot be eradicated, and stressed the need for EU Member States to develop national strategies to deal with violence, including trafficking. A Bulgarian journalist who attended the event described a horrifying practice in his country whereby acid is thrown on women, leading to blindness and disfigurement. He highlighted that in Bulgaria violence against women is far more accepted than other parts of Western Europe, with large numbers of women affected. It is true that in many parts of the world certain forms of violence are treated not as crimes but as private family business in which the state should not interfere. The distinction between the public and the private is one of the main reasons why violence against women is not always investigated and prosecuted.

One proposal put forward during the discussion was that of setting up a Europe-wide hotline for victims of abuse. In Spain, a hotline has already been established, providing advice and support for women who have been subject to violence. To implement a similar system at the EU level would offer a valuable support network to women who need it, and could, I believe, have a hugely positive impact. The problem is deciding what form this hotline would take. We already have in operation a Europe-wide hotline for missing children; yet many Member States simply haven’t made full use of this service. It is not enough to put in place a hotline with a number that victims can ring. It is also necessary to set up an infrastructure, with a link to police, NGOs and other bodies. This requires money, and a strong willingness on the part of national governments to implement it.

We know that violence against women, in whatever form, violates human rights and presents a significant obstacle to the achievement of equality between men and women. It imposes huge costs on society, and creates a major public health problem. For this reason, it is indispensable that the EU continues to address this issue and encourages Member States to do the same. As I explained in previous blog posts, in 2000 the EU-funded Daphne programme was set up to prevent and fight all forms of violence against women, adolescents and children, taking place in either the public or the private sphere. At present, an ad hoc committee is also drafting a European convention which will establish common standards aimed at preventing and fighting the problem of violence against women.

There are just five years to go before we reach the deadline for implementing the Millennium Development Goals and there is still an awful lot more needing to be done. However I will strive to ensure, along with my fellow members of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, that violence against women remains at the top of the EU agenda. I hope that when we reach International Women’s Day in 2011, we will have seen more substantial improvements in the fight against this grave crime and a greater level of awareness about its damaging effects.

Women in armed conflict

Labour Party

This week, in the run up to International Women’s Day on Monday 8th March, a series of special events were put on in the European Parliament focusing on a broad range of women’s rights issues.  Notably yesterday, we had a debate entitled ‘Women in armed conflict – the example of the Democratic Republic of Congo’.  In recent months I have written a number of blogs addressing conflict violence against women.  This is an issue which is discussed regularly in the European Parliament, given that countries across the globe tme and again look to the EU as a source of hope in the fight against such violence.

As many of you will be aware, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been in the grip of a grave humanitarian crisis since the country was devastated by a five-year long civil war between 1998 and 2003.  During the conflict, government forces supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe fought against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda. Despite the brokering of a peace deal in 2003 which brought the war to an end, another type of war has continued unhindered in the DRC: the war against the female population.  In a country where the political situation remains extremely fragile, acts of violence against women, including rape, injury and sexual slavery, have been ignored and allowed to take place on a massive scale.  This has devastating consequences for both the women who are affected, and also for society at large.

Efforts have been made at the international level to address violence against women in conflict states.  Indeed the focal point of yesterday’s discussion was the progress on the ground since the introduction of Resolution 1325 ten years ago, in which the UN Security Council acknowledged women’s needs in armed conflict and women’s role in peace and security.  A representative from the European Commission was present at the debate.  He explained that a number of strategies have been adopted since 2000, including prevention, support for victims, and strategies to fight against impunity.  In November 2009, the United Nations launched a comprehensive strategy to tackle violence against women in the DRC, which was supported by the European Union. Then, in January this year, Margot Wallström, who was previously European Commissioner for Institutional Relations and Communication Strategy, organised a conference in Brussels on ‘Women, Peace and Security: Empowering women in peace and conflict’.

Despite these efforts at the international level, to date only 12 EU Member States have adopted national action plans for implementing Resolution 1325.

One woman who has lived through the country’s violence spoke at the event yesterday.  She highlighted that impunity is one of the most important issues for female victims in the DRC.  Since the establishment of the International Criminal Court in 2002, the fight against impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity has come a long way.  However, as she correctly pointed out, most of the crimes against women committed during the civil war in the DRC took place before 2002.  There have been some convictions against the Congolese army thanks to external pressure by Hillary Clinton and other high-profile figures, including the sentencing last year of ten Congolese rapists by a Congolese military court.  Yet the judicial system in the DRC remains weak, and the capacity to accommodate all convicted perpetrators simply does not exist.

The speaker stressed that women who have been raped are victims not just of their crime, but are also victims of exclusion within the community.  Effective action is needed by local communities to ensure that injured women are treated with compassion, and are not simply rejected by their families and by their peers.

There can be no doubt that the European Union has a huge role to play in tackling violence against women in conflict-ridden and post-conflict states.  I strongly believe that the EU has a duty to encourage as many of its members as possible to adopt national actions plans for implementing Resolution 1325.  It should also ensure that in its missions to conflict states, a greater level of expertise is available to help victims of rape and other acts of violence.  Rape continues to be used as a weapon of war in civil conflicts across the globe, and the EU is one of the key actors with the capacity to significantly reduce the damaging effects of this upon victims and communities.

Women of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Whose Justice?

Labour Party

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is today a flourishing European state, which looks set to secure its place as a member of the European Union in the next few years.  Its current image stands in stark contrast to that of the 1992 to 1995 period, which witnessed a bitter war and countless human rights violations. Among them were rapes, killings, forced displacement, and other crimes against humanity.  During the war, women comprised a large proportion of the total victims, with rape being actively used against them as a tool of war.  Estimates of the numbers of women raped range between 20,000 and 50,000, though the actual figure has proved difficult to determine.

Fourteen years on, and justice in the majority of cases has still not been served.  In an attempt to reverse this lack of progress, a unique event organised by Amnesty International and chaired by my fellow Socialists and Democrats Group member, Emine Bozkurt MEP, was held yesterday in the European Parliament.  Its aim was to provide an opportunity for Parliamentarians to hear first-hand the experiences of women who were directly affected by this issue, so that MEPs might find a way of moving things forward.

This initiative is not a new one.  In fact, Amnesty International has been working for six years on the current project and on helping victims of rape to fight for the justice they deserve.  In September it published a report entitled Whose Justice? Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Women Still Waiting, which highlights the on-going struggle women are experiencing in trying to obtain justice in BiH, and which seeks to offer some hopes for the future.

The report is shocking in parts.  It notes first of all that rape is a crime under international law and that it is the only crime of sexual violence recognised explicitly by the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).  Yet to date there have only been 18 rape convictions at the international level for the 1992 to 1995 period in BiH.  Even more disturbing is that many perpetrators have now found themselves holding high positions in the region, be it in municipalities, banks or schools, and victims are rarely in a position to stand up to them.

Achieving justice is not the only important consideration.  A significant issue identified by Amnesty and other NGOs is that the ICTY has by and large failed to address the long-term psychological, social and economic needs of the survivors of sexual violence.  Unlike at the International Criminal Court (ICC), where survivors have the right to be represented thoughout criminal trial proceedings, at the ICTY survivors can only participate if they themselves provide evidence at The Hague.  Understandably this can have a damaging impact upon victims, who risk their personal safety and expose themselves to added trauma in their determination to see their violators brought to justice.

The question, then, is what can be done in the light of this report?  One idea put forward by Amnesty is to encourage the Bosnian authorities, NGOs and victims to meet together, and to set up a state strategy on reparations for victims.  This is something the authorities have been avoiding for some time.  The European Parliament and other legislative bodies must push the issue up the agenda, and ensure that the Bosnian authorities face up to the needs of victims.  It has been 17 years since the start of the war in BiH, and it will be many more years before a reasonable number of convictions have been secured.  I believe that it is up to those who have the power, including myself, to speak up for the victims of rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to ensure that those responsible for grave crimes against humanity and war crimes are held to account for their actions.