Sophie, Countess of Wessex spoke at a virtual United Nations event commemorating the sixth International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict

By Phil Boucher
June 19, 2020 11:37 AM
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Sophie Wessex is fighting for the victims of sexual violence during the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at a virtual United Nations event commemorating the sixth International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, the countess — who's married to Queen Elizabeth’s youngest son, Prince Edward — spoke passionately about the way that quarantine and self-isolation have likely "amplified suffering" for some women and young people.

"Since the pandemic began the number of cases of sexual violence across conflict settings and in domestic settings are very likely to have risen substantially," said Sophie, 55.

"Women and girls once again are being affected disproportionately, with increased difficulties in accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare, higher numbers of maternal deaths and teenage pregnancies, closures of domestic violence shelters, closure of schools, reduction in aid work and funds for charities, delays in relief packages. COVID-19 has amplified suffering with the restrictions imposed on survivors," she continued.

To combat the problem, the countess — who has been volunteering behind-the-scenes with NHS medics and taking part in events alongside Kate Middleton — stressed the importance of local government action.

Kate Middleton and Sophie, Countess of Wessex
Kensington Palace

"Time is against the victims and therefore it is imperative that National Action Plans are implemented or where possible even accelerated," she added. "But importantly in the course of our action we must ensure all responses are best geared to them.

"My message, therefore, today is simple, and I hope I may speak for all survivors of conflict-related sexual violence when I say: we must listen to the needs and wishes of all survivors and we must act accordingly."

Sophie has worked with the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) since November 2018, when she appeared at the Fighting Stigma Through Film festival in London alongside its co-founder Angelina Jolie.

Writing in the Telegraph at the time, she opened up about how it's "easy to overlook the pioneering work of change-makers" amid a backdrop of horrific crimes.

“Only when women and men work alongside each other as equals will the world see sustained improvement in conflict resolution and a reduction in sexual violence in conflict,” she added.

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Luiz Rampelotto/EuropaNewswire

The PSVI campaign aims to prevent the use of rape and sexual violence as a means of terror during times of conflict by providing a set of standardized rules for the compassionate investigation of sexual crimes that protect the mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of survivors.

On Friday, the U.K. government unveiled a draft code that hopes to turn this ambition into a reality. Known as the Murad Code after Nobel Peace Laureate Nadia Murad, the regulations provide a framework for strengthening the law in such a way that survivors are prevented from being further traumatized by their own governments or international organizations.