British embassy to Italy highlights violence against women

On the evening of International Women's Day on 8 March, Rome’s Colosseum will be illuminated with images from a British-led awareness campaign against sexual violence in conflict situations, in a collaborative act between the British embassy and the city of Rome.

The British Foreign Office initiative is entitled “Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict – PSVI” and the Colosseum illumination follows a debate on the issue held at the British ambassador’s residence Villa Wolkonsky on 20 February.

The campaign is a key priority for Britain during its current presidency of the G8, and the PSVI recommendations will be brought to the attention of the G8 foreign ministers at their upcoming meeting in London, scheduled for 10-11 April.

In a statement the British embassy in Rome said the campaign in the Italian capital is “to remind the whole world of the urgency of the task against a phenomenon as horrendous as it is enormous, in its proportions as well as the level of impunity that surrounds it.”

The mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno, and the British ambassador to Italy, Christopher Prentice will launch the illumination which is backed by the capital's department for equal opportunities; the PSVI working group in Italy; the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees; the women’s movement Se Non Ora Quando; and Lawyers Without Borders.

In an address to the PSVI team of experts at the London Foreign Office on 30 January, Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague said: “Eight months ago I announced the start of a new UK campaign to prevent the use of rape and other forms of sexual violence as a weapon of war. The sad truth today is that the perpetrators of these appalling, life-shattering crimes still tend to go unpunished.”

The Rome initiative is in line with the UN’s theme for this year’s International Women’s Day: "A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women". The UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said: "There is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable."

The UN recently released the following statistics: Up to 50 per cent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16.

Globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.

Up to 70 per cent of women in the world report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime. Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18.