CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Since prehistoric time, marauding armies have raped defenseless women and girls in war zones. It's an ugly part of the human record, recurring war after war.
But an international crackdown on the atrocity occurred this month in two forums: the G8 nations and the U.N. Security Council. Both called for worldwide action and prosecution of rapists as war criminals.
The G8 countries were addressed by British Foreign Secretary William Hague and American actress Angelina Jolie, who produced a film, "In the Land of Blood and Honey," about rape camps during the Bosnia conflict.
Hague told the G8 leaders: "Our goal must be a world in which it is inconceivable that thousands of women, children and men can be raped in the course of a conflict. ... Now that we have put war-zone rape on the international agenda, it must never slip off it again."
At the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council:
"Wartime rape not only destroys individual lives, it lays waste to families and communities. ... Negative effects of wartime rape persist long after the guns fall silent. ... Another pattern we see is that, although this vicious crime disproportionately affects women and girls, men and boys are also targeted."
In the current Syrian civil war, both sides accuse the other of mass rape. In the African nations of Sierra Leone and Congo, up to a half-million women and children reportedly were raped in recent wars. A U.N. report on Africa said "the majority of women and girls refused to report for fear of retribution and banishment by their spouses and the community."
After centuries of ignoring this evil, it's good that world leaders are launching unified action against an age-old horror.