The Countess of Wessex has said the prevalence of rape as a weapon in wars should be taught in schools, as she opens up on her conversations about sexual violence with her own children.
In an interview with BBC Radio 5’s Naga Munchetty, Sophie also discussed the ongoing prevalence of rape and sexual violence as weapons of war in global conflicts as well as the importance of raising awareness of the cause and supporting its survivors.
Sophie, the Countess of Wessex said: "I see no reason why not to teach it in schools, because it is a reality. Your natural understanding of what war is about … is guns and rockets, and people arguing about territory. It’s much more complicated than that.
"These days it’s not only about territory, it’s about minerals and all sorts of things and access — and I think it’s important to put war into context as to what really happens, without frightening people and making it too unpalatable.
"It would be important to actually cover that as an actual issue. How appropriate it would be, I don’t know, I’m not an educationalist, but I do think in terms of understanding there are multiple weapons that are used in war, and it’s not all about guns and bullets and there are other types of warfare are being used, have been used."
On the importance of talking about issues such as sexual abuse and rape – and having such conversations with her own children, she said: "I think the more conversations that take place, and the more confident girls and young women are to talk about these things and to call it out and to call out any kind of behaviour they’re not happy with, hopefully that might give them more confidence.
"The more people come forward, the more momentum it will hold.
"My children are different ages and different sexes, you have to measure how you talk about these things. My daughter, she’s 17, and she’s very aware of this kind of thing. Her school have a lot of debates about all sorts of things whether it be to do with feminism or ethnic equality.
"They are constantly talking about these things. She’s quite aware of the work I do with women, peacebuilders, and also the conflict-related sexual violence pieces as well.
"We chat about it quite a lot and particularly, if I’ve been on a trip somewhere she wants to know where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. She has a natural curiosity about it and it’s easier to have that conversation with her.
"With my son, he’s 13 going on 14. It’s slightly harder to have that conversation about my work. He’s at that age where he’s much more aware of girls around him and everything.
"But interestingly he’s quite conscious of this whole issue of inappropriate behaviour between girls and boys. He does seem quite aware of it, and I think that’s partly to do with schools and partly what they chat about on social media.
"I think it’s about having honest, open conversations as a family, but also hopefully in school settings as well.”
The 55-year-old also noted the difficulty of grieving in public following Philip’s death.
"It’s only when you do the normal things you would have done with them and you suddenly realise that they are not there, that you start to have an ‘Oh my goodness’ moment," the countess told the BBC.
Sophie has previously described the "shock" of Philip’s death on April 9, which prompted an outpouring of grief from across the UK and abroad.
"It’s such a shock but at the same time you know it’s going to happen but when it happens it’s just this massive, massive hole," she had said.
Earlier this month, the countess told The Telegraph Magazine the royals are "still a family no matter what happens" following tensions earlier this year in the aftermath of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Sophie in January also admitted hearing the stories of sexual violence survivors had taken her to "some very dark places" during her work to raise awareness about their plight.
The countess publicly committed herself to supporting the UK’s work helping victims of rape, sexual violence and exploitation in war on International Women’s Day in 2019.
In an address at a virtual UN event for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict in June 2020, Sophie said sexual violence in the home or during conflicts is likely to have "risen substantially" during the pandemic.
She reaffirmed her commitment to champion the Women, Peace and Security agenda and the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative in her BBC interview, recorded at St James’s Palace earlier this week ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict on June 19.