Kemi Badenoch said she utterly condemned the rapes of Jewish women on October 7 in a tear-laden conference about sexual violence at the House of Commons.
The Business Secretary, who also holds the Women and Equalities brief, said women’s organisations who had ignored the rapes or attempted to justify them were shameful. “Let me be clear; rape is not resistance or some form of freedom fighting,” she told a packed room of journalists and MPs. “It is a betrayal of all women to be silent about the savagery of these attacks.”
Labour’s Dame Margaret Hodge agreed, saying: ‘The purpose of sexual violence is to terrorise communities, instil fear and encourage hatred. The silence we have seen is a shameful stain on all us and it leads me to wonder if it reflects, in part, the antisemitism that has flourished in the wake of this attack.’
Badenoch headed up a Parliamentary conference into the rapes which listened to the testimony of Zacha volunteer Simcha Greiniman, police chief Mirit Ben Mayor, Shari Mendes who was part of the team which helped to bury female soldiers who were killed in the brutal attack and Ashley Waxman Bakshi, the cousin of 19-year-old hostage Agam Berger.
The witnesses are doing a short tour – Paris yesterday, Berlin tomorrow – to ensure that this testimony is remembered particularly because of the remaining hostages in Gaza.
The testimony was brutal; mass rapes, genital mutilation, bodies that were totally brutalised in an attack which went beyond death – Mendes described how the faces of women had been shot multiple times as if to erase their existence.
Bakshi gave perhaps the most emotional testimony – her pain is ongoing. She left many onlookers in tears and was given a standing ovation.
‘After reading about the investigations of the barbaric sexual abuse you can clearly understand our worry with every minute that passes when our women and girls are in the hands of these monster,’ she said. ‘If they were able to do all this in eight hours on October 7 thing about what they have been doing to those who have been there for 117 days. What if they are pregnant? What if they are being used as sex slaves?
Speaking about the last hostage video with showed two of Agam’s friends she said: ‘We couldn’t help but notice that one of them seemed a bit swollen in her face. And one of the first unimaginable thoughts were about pregnancy.’
Speaking directly to the witnesses, Badenoch said: ‘There is little I can say right now to provide comfort after listening to such horror and understanding the scale of the horror and terror that you’ve all had to experience. All we can do is make sure that your stories are heard and make sure that that the hostages are returned. We have heard you, will make sure your stories are heard and shared and do all we can to make sure the hostages are returned.’
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