In a powerful keynote speech delivered at the U.N. Peacekeeping Defense Ministerial Summit in Vancouver on Wednesday, the actress—who is a Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees—described sexual violence as “a critical obstacle to achieving women’s equality and our full human rights.”
Jolie went on to reference the female Rohingya refugees seeking asylum in Bangladesh, calling sexual violence a weapon of war, “used to deliberate effect to achieve military or political objectives.”
She also appeared to refer to the recent sexual harassment allegations in the entertainment industry.
“Sexual violence is everywhere—in the industry where I work, in business, in universities, in politics, in the military, and across the world,” Jolie said. “All too often, these kinds of crimes against women are laughed off, depicted as a minor offense by someone who cannot control themselves, as an illness, or as some kind of exaggerated sexual need. But a man who mistreats women is not oversexed. He is abusive.”
Jolie concluded by highlighting that it is possible to make the crucial changes needed to allow women to live free of sexual violence.
“It is hard, but it is not impossible,” she said. “We have the laws, the institutions, and the expertise in gathering evidence. We are able to identify perpetrators. What is missing is the political will.”