Angelina Jolie's Feminist Speech on Sexual Violence Deserves a Standing Ovation


Late last week, Angelina Jolie gave a rabble-rousing speech on sexual violence at the African Union summit in Johannesburg. She said, in no uncertain terms, that ending sexual violence needs to be a top priority. 

 "There is a global epidemic of violence against women — both within conflict zones and within societies at peace — and it is still treated as a lesser crime and lower priority," she said, according to People.

The actress and activist is a special envoy of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and brings with her years of experience in the fight for human rights. Jolie warned this isn't a problem specific to politically unstable or economically unviable countries.

"Women and girls are bearing the brunt of extremists that revel in treating them barbarically," she told attendees. "This is inextricably linked to our overall failure to prevent and end conflicts worldwide, which is causing human suffering on an unprecedented level."

Mic/Shiraaz Mohamed/AP

"The near-total impunity that exists worldwide for crimes against women, in conflict zones in particular, means that we are seeing more and more armed groups turn it into their weapon of choice," Jolie said in her speech.

The activist explained the only way forward, the only way to take on this epidemic, is to include women in the design and application of public policy. Strong, empowered women, Jolie argued, provide the foundation for a fair and indomitable society, and stability cannot be found when only half the population is liberated.

Echoing the He for She campaign, which U.N. goodwill ambassador Emma Watson launched at the United Nations in September, Jolie argued that men are an integral part of combatting gender disparity, and the fight must be a collaborative effort.  

Mic/Shiraaz Mohamed/AP

The double standard is everywhere. In a twist of irony, Time's coverage of the speech on gender equality ultimately reinforced the disparity by mentioning Jolie's outfit and victims of sexual violence in the same breath. "The Unbroken director, wearing a dark gray Michael Kors dress and beige heels, went on to pay tribute to African victims for their 'extraordinary resilience, dignity and strength in the face of trials that would break any of us,'" the magazine wrote

Despite the pattern of fixating on a woman's appearance more than the substance of her message, Jolie still knocked it out of the park. She drew attention to one of the most vital and inexcusable issues plaguing humanity, which is clearly not being addressed aggressively enough: More than 1 in 3 females across the world were subjected to sexual violence, a 2013 U.N. study found.

We need her message now more than ever. Well done, Jolie.