War Violence Against Women: Part 2 of 4

Today, on January 24, 2013, women and girls are continuing to be assaulted in Syria and refugee camps (IRC’s Press Release). And no doubt women in other war zones, like Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, and Mexico are experiencing this as well. UN Women reports, “Women in war-torn societies can face specific and devastating forms of sexual violence, which are sometimes deployed systematically to achieve military or political objectives. […] Even after conflict has ended, the impacts of sexual violence persist, including unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and stigmatization.”

Rape and sexual violence aren’t supposed to be a part of war anymore (or life, for that matter). In 1949, the Geneva Convention stated, “Women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault.” And then in 2008, the UN Security Council reinforced this with Resolution 1820 which, among other things, “Demands the immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed  conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians with immediate effect.” It stresses the importance that peace cannot and will not occur while sexual violence continues to exist.

Yesterday I blogged about rape occurring during war in Syria, I’m assuming by Syrian men. “Those men" (yesterday’s blog). But U.S. soldiers commit sexual violence as well, which the general population usually doesn’t hear about. “If you serve in the U.S. military and you rape or sexually assault a fellow service member, chances are you won’t be punished. In fact, you have an estimated 86.5% chance of keeping your crime a secret and a 92% chance of avoiding a court-martial” (CNN Opinion).

That leaves me to wonder, what are the chances of “keeping it a secret” if the assault is against a civilian in another country… especially during war? Because “war” is WAR. I found it challenging to find reliable sources for sexual violence incidents involving U.S. soldiers, but they’re there. In March 2006, U.S soldiers raped and killed a 14- or 15-year-old Iraqi girl (Washington Post and BBC News). And then in March 2012, one U.S. soldier (or many?) killed 9 children and 7 adults (including 2 women that had been raped) (BBC News and Steve Lendman’s Blog).

All this to say…???

3 days ago I would have considered myself quite knowledgeable about the often difficult plight of women worldwide. Turns out that even though I continue to educate myself about it, there’s still a lot I don’t know… or don’t connect with… or have a hard time believing it can be any worse.

Created in 2010, UN Women (United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women) offers useful information and resources, and “works for the elimination of discrimination against women and girls; empowerment of women; and achievement of equality between women and men as partners and beneficiaries of development, human rights, humanitarian action and peace and security." I encourage you to check out the work they’re doing.