On June 19, which is the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, the Colosseum in Rome was the background for an action to illuminate consciences and pay tribute to all survivors who have experienced wartime sexual violence. As part of the « Zero dignity in violence » campaign launched by Stop Rape Italia, four members of SEMA saw their powerful testimonies projected on the façade of this nearly 2000 year old amphitheatre.
Throughout history, rape and other forms of sexual violence have been used as a weapon of war and a tool to punish, terrorise and destroy populations. Recognising that the consequences of these atrocities are devastating not only to the victims but also to communities as a whole, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed June 19 as the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, a day to honour victims and survivors of sexual violence from all over the world, and pay tribute to those who have courageously devoted their lives to eradicate these crimes.
This year, Stop Rape Italia marked the occasion using the venerable Colosseum to amplify survivors’ calls to action and to share the truth about their struggles. The initiative was part of a larger project under the III National Action Plan to implement the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, to recognise the shocking numbers of women who have suffered – and continue to suffer – from these heinous crimes.
SEMA members, together with Dr Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize laureate for his work with victims of conflict-related sexual violence in the DRC, urged the world to engage to bring truth, justice, reparations, and guarantees of non-repetition to survivors around the world.
Tibisay Ambrosini, coordinator of Stop Rape Italia, believes illuminating the Colosseum is « a step in the process to enlighten consciences, raise awareness to sexual violence in conflict, and ignite hope in survivors themselves. This hope is built on concrete actions that replace indifference with the will to protect and promote the dignity of all human life. »
“[There’s] no dignity in violence. Reject indifference, change is possible!”
Here are additional images of SEMA members’ testimonies projected on to the Colosseum: