How Angelina Jolie Is Stepping Up Her Fight to Protect Victims of Sexual Violence in War – and Making Her Case Across Europe

Angelina Jolie spoke at the fifth anniversary of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative in London

Angelina jolie in London
Photo: Andrew Parsons/i-Images

Angelina Jolie is standing firm on her initiative to end sexual violence in war zones.

On Monday, the filmmaker-actress, 41, returned to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) she helped launch in 2012. Jolie partnered up with then-British foreign secretary William Hague to prevent the use of rape and sexual violence as a means of terror during wars and conflict.

Now five years later, Jolie is promoting the Time to Act initiative to hold sexual offenders accountable for their war crimes.

“When this kind of violence and abuse happens in peacetime, we are absolutely clear it is a crime that deserves to be punished by law,” Jolie exclusively tells PEOPLE. “But when it happens in the middle of a conflict, on a mass scale, with such brutal violence, it is treated as something impossible to prevent or somehow justified by the climate of war.”

She adds, “All of us here know that this is simply not good enough. We are tired of the excuses put forward, time and again, to justify neglecting crimes that disproportionately affect women and children, and that contribute to the holding back of women’s rights in many countries for generation after generation.”

Angelina jolie in London
Andrew Parsons/i-Images

Jolie helped launch the second edition of the International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict, a practical tool for experts working in the field to try to gather evidence of crimes and enable future prosecutions.

“We live in a world where tens of thousands, often hundreds of thousands can be raped,” Jolie said in her remarks at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

“All of us involved in PSVI are proud of the work so far, but with much more to do we are very focused on the next steps” she explained, noting that this involves “taking the tools that have been developed into the field to help document crimes and support prosecutions, working with militaries to change doctrine and training, and pushing for the implementation of laws to protect the very vulnerable victims.”

Jolie, who is a special envoy to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, joined Lord Hague and Baroness Anelay as they spoke out against sexual violence and called for perpetrators to be held accountable. The PSVI is a cause that’s very close to Jolie’s heart: In 2014 the actress co-hosted a Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict alongside Hague and then-husband Brad Pitt.

This brought together over 123 country delegations and resulted in the launch of a global protocol to investigate and collect evidence and help bring perpetrators of sexual violence to justice.

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At today’s event, the U.K.’s special representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, Baroness Anelay, announced new steps to build on this work, alongside an updated protocol that contains a stronger focus on dealing with trauma, evidence analysis, and support to child and male survivors.

“The work of everyone involved with the Prevention of Sexual Violence Initiative shows it is possible to make progress in combating terrible crimes,” said Lord Hague. “But the events of recent years in many conflict zones have also shown that it is vital to continue and step up this work.”

Jolie will be heading to Geneva on Wednesday to continue her humanitarian work. She will deliver the Annual Sergio Vieira de Mello Memorial Lecture at the United Nations Assembly Hall, focusing on key emerging humanitarian themes and topical issues that continue to reflect the late U.N. Brazilian diplomat’s principles, philosophy and work.

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