Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry was joined in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the State Department in Washington, D.C. by Catherine M. Russell, ambassador-at-large for global women's issues, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague for a "Discussion on Ending and Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Situations." Kerry himself framed the discussion as an exploration of "the depths of depravity and the extraordinary violence of rape as a tool of war, as violence against women as a tool of intimidation, coercion, submission, and power."
Though Bosnia, Colombia, Guatemala, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Liberia were cited as examples where this type of violence was intentionally used as a weapon of war, Kerry was asked near the end of the discussion if having women in the military now helping to create policy makes a difference. In his answer, Kerry cited the equal pay "glass ceiling" as one of the reasons that it is difficult to "get people to deal with ... sex and sexual violence" [emphasis added]:
SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, sure. I mean, absolutely, of course it does. When I came to the United States Senate, there was one woman. And I watched this transition. I think we got up to 20-something, whatever the number was. Extraordinary, extraordinary difference to the quality of our caucuses, to the quality of debate, to the points of view that were brought forward. I mean, it’s hard for me to imagine how it was the way it was for as long as it was, but it’s hard for a lot of people to imagine it the way it is today, too.
We’ve got a long way to go. We still have a glass ceiling in the United States. And if we still have a glass ceiling on something as straightforward as employment and equal jobs, equal pay for that job, imagine the sort of push it’s going to take to get people to deal with something they’re as uneasy with as sex and sexual violence. A lot of people don’t understand that rape is used as a tool in war. Many people say, well, no, it’s just – it happens or people dismiss it. You can’t. We can’t allow people to do that.