Invisible Women, Silent Wars: Understanding Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Contemporary Proxy Warfare

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Invisible Women, Silent Wars: Understanding Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Contemporary Proxy Warfare

19 March @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Around the world there are a number of ‘silent wars’ in which victims of the global rise in conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) are without justice. Political agendas, a lack of direct accountability and blurred lines of responsibility mean that survivors are left without proper recourse. A new report by Megan Gittoes, published by the Henry Jackson Society, uses recent case studies from Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Syria, and Israel on October 7th to offer critical insights into how proxy warfare intensifies CRSV, and the legal challenges posed by non-state actors in armed conflict.

This complex interplay between proxy warfare and CRSV not only necessitates immediate international action, but also compels us to re-evaluate the existing frameworks for addressing sexual violence in armed conflict. The UK’s sustained diplomatic efforts are crucial for securing accountability for perpetrators of egregious war crimes and providing comprehensive support for survivors’ recovery.

In our multi-polar world, the cost of entry into these conflicts is now incredibly low. Those responsible for atrocious violations of international law need to face justice, and the UK must lead on future diplomatic efforts that lay the groundwork to bring them to account.

The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to invite you to this fascinating discussion to explore the findings of the report.



Megan Gittoes is the Director of Communications and Policy Relations at the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), where she oversees the organisation’s media presence, its impact across both traditional and digital channels, as well as shaping its policy initiatives. She is a recognised authority in her field, frequently featured in UK print, radio broadcast media, where she provides commentary on politics, international affairs, and domestic security.

Megan has established a distinguished career in defence and security policy. Prior to her role at HJS, she served as a Senior Aide to the Rt Hon. Tobias Ellwood MP, providing strategic media and research support. She led his team during his transition from Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence to Chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, where she oversaw the communications, policy and research, supporting him in his brief. She received a BA Hons degree at the University of Birmingham in Anthropology and Political Science.



Robert Clark is the Director of the Defence and Security Unit at Civitas. Prior to this he was a Defence Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. Robert specialises in both NATO and Chinese military strategy, land warfare, and the role of the UK’s Armed Forces both at home and overseas.

Robert has published reports ranging from Iranian security threats to the role of the Chinese defence industry in UK universities, also writing for the NATO Defense College, in Rome, and had several peer-reviewed journal articles published researching both China’s genocide against the Uyghurs and UK military affairs. Robert holds an MA in Conflict Studies from King’s College London, and served for 15 years in the British Army, which included frontline combat tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.



The Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP is a British Conservative Party politician, soldier and author. He served in the Royal Green Jackets and reached the rank of Captain. He currently serves as the Member of Parliament for Bournemouth East and served as a UK Government Minister at the Ministry of Defence from 2017 to 2019. He has been the chair of the Defence Select Committee between 2020 and 2023.



Aliona Hlivco is a Managing Director at The Henry Jackson Society and a member of the Advisory Council at Coalition for Global Prosperity.

She is a foreign policy expert with background in global affairs and strategic communications. Aliona is a guest lecturer in various UK and US academic institutions and a regular expert voice on global affairs for international media.

Aliona has had an extensive career in Ukrainian politics, serving as an adviser to the former Prime Minister of Ukraine and holding positions in Chernivtsi Regional Parliament and the Ministry of Infrastructure. She focused on international cooperation, public-private partnerships and decentralisation. She held a public office and was a member of regional parliament in 2015-2018 before she moved to London.

Aliona holds MA in Political Science and MPA from Chernivtsi National University in Ukraine. She is a recipient of the Order of Merit for her service in supporting democracy in Ukraine during the Revolution of Dignity 2013-2014.


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The Henry Jackson Society was pleased to host the report launch event with Megan Gittoes, Robert Clark and The Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP, chaired by Aliona Hlivco. Through the use of four case studies, Megan began the discussion by stressing the shameful rise in sexual violence in conflict settings and the distinct militarisation of rogue actors in the 21st century. Strikingly, an enormous loophole in international law fails to tackle these parallel issues as we must adopt a victim-centred approach to reach a contemporary understanding of warfare in the 21st century. Tobias Ellwood MP then reinforced that this legal gap must be closed in order to hold these groups to account. Despite international tensions, there must be the political will to tackle this issue as non-state actors do not sign up to or abide by the standard conventions of war. By drawing on his experience within the British Army, Robert Clark detailed how the focus on human security has evolved in the army and the increasingly important role of the British Armed Forces in training allies to combat and deal with such crimes. In the following Q&A session, questions were raised on how the UN can step forward and tackle this worrying trend, how we can counter misinformation or denialism around such crimes and whether there are any existing frameworks for successfully rebuilding societies that have been victims of attack.






19 March
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


Committee Room 8, House of Commons
London, SW1A 0AA United Kingdom
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Megan Gittoes, Robert Clark, The Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP


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