[Marxism] The Connection Between Militarism and Violence Against Women
sandinista at shaw.ca
Wed Mar 3 17:34:26 MST 2004
The Connection Between Militarism and Violence Against Women
by Lucinda Marshall; February 21, 2004
With no end in sight to the horribly misguided and damaging 'War on
Terrorism', it is increasingly urgent to recognize the effects of war on
women. There can be no true peace while the pandemic of violence against
women continues, a pandemic that is greatly exacerbated by militarism.
Making the connection between militarism and violence against women is
critical to ending the siege of violence under which all women live.
The theory of Power Over an 'other' provides the common thread between
military campaigns and assaults against women. What this theory says is that
it is allowable for a person, ethnic group, government, etc. to get what
they want by way of power over an other. This modus operandi has led us to a
point where, as Patricia Evans points out, we as a civilization have assumed
so much power over people and resources, that we now have the power to wipe
out the world.
In order for the power over theory to work, an 'other' must be defined by
creating distinctions (no matter how false) between people, cultures and so
on. The other can be a person, country, ethnic group, etc. This theory is
the lifeblood of militarism, which depends on the creating of an other by
declaring distinctions between two groups. The other is then asserted to be
'less than'. Once that definition is made, then the other must be protected
All too commonly, whether implicitly or explicitly, women are the 'other'.
Consequently, it becomes necessary in the eyes of those who seek Power Over
to control and belittle women, and all aspects of womanhood. In many
cultures, women are viewed as the possessions of their men. Therefore, when
a woman is raped, it is effectively an attack on the manhood of her man.
Using this reasoning, women become the targets of war in order to attack the
honor of the men of a particular culture, ethnic group or country. For these
reasons, rape and other forms of sexual assault against women are always a
part of war and conflict. When women are assumed to be possessions that can
be attacked, stolen and dishonored, they become a means of feminizing and
degrading the enemy.
Many types of violence against women are exacerbated by militarism,
including the indirect effects on civilian populations and post-conflict
situations. These include: Rape/sexual assault and harassment both within
the military and perpetrated on civilian populations. Domestic violence.
Prostitution, pornography and trafficking.
Since the beginning of the patriarchal age, women have been considered the
spoils of war, invisibilized under the euphemistic phrase, 'collateral
damage'. In Rwanda, at least 250,000 women were raped in the 1994 genocide.
During the 1990's, more than 20,000 Muslim women were raped as part of an
ethnic cleansing campaign in Bosnia. And as recently as 2003, the U.N.
reported thousands of women and girls had been raped during fighting in the
Democratic Republic of Congo. Gang rape was so widespread and brutal that
doctors began classifying vaginal destruction as a combat-related crime.
Military training frequently encourages the hatred and belittling of women.
The use of gender slurs motivate men to act aggressively, both toward women
within their own culture and women of the 'other' culture. Pornography and
prostitution have always been unofficially sanctioned forms of entertainment
for soldiers. Until 1999, pornography could easily be purchased by
servicemen at U.S. military base commissaries, which were one of the largest
purchasers of hard core pornography. It's removal cost the commissaries at
least $10 million.
Prostitution is another perennial side effect of military action. There has
always been an unspoken U.S. military policy of keeping the men happy. An
active sex industry for military R and R has been consistently allowed and
encouraged to flourish, in direct violation of U.S. and international law.
Women are forced into prostitution as de facto sex slaves for the military
in a variety of ways, such as false employment promises, being sold by their
families, abduction, etc. It is no surprise that trafficking routes tend to
spring up near military bases. More than 5000 women, mainly from the
Philippines and the former Soviet Union were trafficked into South Korea in
the mid 1990's, primarily to work as 'entertainers' at bars near U.S.
Women within the military are also considered fair targets. In a recent
study, 30% of female veterans reported experiencing rape or attempted rape
by U.S. servicemen. According to a Department of Defense survey, one in five
female cadets at the Air Force Academy said they had been sexually assaulted
during their time there. Unfortunately many of these assaults were not
reported when they occurred because the victims feared retaliation, such as
damage to their careers or being accused of being disloyal or unpatriotic.
Sexual harassment has long plagued women in the military. The Tailhook
Scandal illustrates the depth of the problem. In that case, over 50 officers
were implicated in making women run a gauntlet where they were man-handled
in a variety of sexual ways. Six other officers were accused of blocking the
investigation into the scandal. What is most significant is that despite
Congressional hearings and massive news coverage, none of those implicated
were ever court martialed or prosecuted in civilian courts.
There is also a long history of domestic violence within the military
culture. There have been 218 domestic murders in the U.S. Military since
1995. While there are services available for military families who
experience domestic violence, the system makes it hard for military wives to
In general there are very few safeguards for the victim. Batterers are
rarely prosecuted or even barred from getting near their victims. The
attitude of commanders when told of domestic violence incidents has tended
to be, "I'll take care of it, he's my soldier," rather than one of
protecting the victim. It is not uncommon for commanders to ignore orders
for anger management counseling and the like when it conflicts with military
assignments. In fact, the military has handled most cases of domestic
violence by administrative actions rather than by court martial. In sharp
contrast, in 1990, 80% of civilian cases were referred for prosecution.
The effects of militarism during post-conflict periods are also quite grave.
Men returning from 'war' frequently transfer their entitlement to commit
violence from the battlefield to their own communities. For example, after
the supposed end to the war in Afghanistan, the condition for women in that
country has worsened considerably. Rape, forced prostitution and marriages,
acid burnings, the bombing of girls' schools, and the sale of women are
daily atrocities. And here in the U.S., 3 soldiers returning from duty in
Afghanistan promptly killed their wives at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The time has come when we can no longer deny that misogynist violence is a
major component of militaristic power over thinking, as well as a
significant part of the global pandemic of violence against women. But we
must go beyond that and recognize the reality that men's violence against
women is so prevalent, that even in 'peacetime', there is no peace for
women. According to a recent UNIFEM report, one in three women will be
sexually assaulted during their lifetime. According to the U.S. Justice
Department, every ninety seconds, a person over the age of 12 is sexually
assaulted. 89% of the victims are female, 99% of the perpetrators are male.
It is therefore critical that those who are working to raise awareness about
misogynist violence and those who are working to end militarism recognize
the intersection of their agendas and find ways to work together.
Towards this end, there are many tools that can and should be used. These
include the implementation of UNSC 1325 and CEDAW as well as the utilization
of the ICC.
The International Criminal Court, established by treaty in 2002, codifies
accountability for gender-based crimes against women during military
conflict by defining sexual and gender violence of all kinds as war crimes.
It also includes means to facilitate better investigation of these crimes
and protection of witnesses and victims as well as legal counsel for
UNSC Resolution 1325 mandates the protection of, and respect for, the human
rights of women and girls, and calls for the increased representation of
women in decision-making for the prevention, management and resolution of
conflict and peace processes. It also calls for increasing the number of
women appointed as special representatives. Other provisions include support
of local women's peace initiatives and respect for international law
applicable to the rights and protection of women and girls. It calls for
adopting special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based
violence, and calls for ensuring that Security Council missions take gender
considerations and rights of women into account, including through
consultation with local and international women's groups.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against
Women (CEDAW), was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly. It defines
discrimination against women as, "...any distinction, exclusion or
restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of
impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women,
irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and
women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic,
social, cultural, civil or any other field." CEDAW has frequently been
referred to as a bill of human rights for women.
It is important to know that the U.S. does not participate in the
International Criminal Court and has not signed UNSC 1325 or ratified CEDAW.
However, both Iraq and Afghanistan have agreed to all three measures and
therefore a case can be made that they are applicable to the situations in
those countries. In particular, it should be obvious that violence always
violates the human rights of the victims and therefore, UNSC 1325 and CEDAW
are obviously applicable to these conflicts. In addition, the documented
pandemic of rapes in both of these countries should certainly be addressed
by the ICC.
Beyond demanding the utilization of these tools, it is also necessary to
speak out against men's sexism and violence. We need to name these for what
they are, and make the connection between this toxic sense of male
entitlement and the militarism that is killing women.
Finally, we need to find and travel different paths to empowerment. We need
to utilize what Riane Eisler calls partnership thinking, to create a
sustainable system that derives its power from within and among rather than
from power over. As Eisler points out, in a partnership society, based on
egalitarian and democratic values, there is a low degree of violence because
it is not needed to preserve domination over as it is in patriarchy. Among
other things, accomplishing this requires a shift in spending priorities.
For instance, we know that quality childcare and good education greatly
impact a child's ability to grow into a capable adult. Yet the amount we
spend on training educators and childcare providers is a minute fraction of
what we spend on training and enabling soldiers to kill. Thus, militarism is
enabled to play a disproportionate role in socializing people to accept
violence and patriarchy as the norm. By shifting spending priorities, we
could begin to change the process of socialization that allows power over
gender domination to one of constructive partnership.
Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the
Founder and Co-Moderator of the Feminist Peace Network,
She is the Co-facilitator of a workshop about militarism and violence
against women, that she developed with Rus Ervin Funk of Men Ending Violence
and the Center for Women and Families in Louisville, KY, . This article is
based in part on material offered in that workshop.
1. Evans, Patricia. The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it
and how to respond, Avon Media Corporation, Avon, Massachusetts, 1996, p.
29. It is interesting to note that this book focuses on power over in
personal relationships, yet right at the beginning, she makes the connection
between the personal and political.
2. Women, War, Peace and Violence Against Women,
3. " Rape So Common In D.R.C., It Is Considered Combat Injury", U.N. Wire,
October 27, 2003, http://www.unwire.org/UNWire/20031027/449_9787.asp.
4. "The Pentagon Takes Aim on Pornography", Kentucky Citizen Digest. March,
5. Raja, Kanaga. "Women From Philippines And Former USSR Trafficked Into
South Korea For Sex", Third World Network Features, September, 2002,
6. Herdy, Amy and Moffeit, Miles. "Female GIs Report Rapes In Iraq War: 37
Seek Aid After Alleging Sex Assaults By U.S. Soldiers", Denver Post, January
25, 2004. In just the last few months, we have learned that 88 cases of
sexual assault have been reported by soldiers in the Gulf region during the
U.S.'s current invasion of Iraq, with 37 women seeking assistance upon
returning from active duty. The women reported not being able to get
appropriate help when the incidents occurred.
7. Herdy, Amy and Moffeit, Miles. "Betrayal In The Ranks: For Crime Victims,
Punishment", Denver Post, Nov. 16, 2003. This is one of an excellent series
of articles. The reporters have continued to report on this story as it
8. "Air Force Academy: Few Cases Resolved", Kansas City Star, February 5,
2003. Since new leadership took over in April, 2003, 21 cases of sexual
misconduct have been reported at the Air Force Academy. Only four cases have
been resolved with only one case resulting in criminal prosecution. In that
case the perpetrator was sentenced to 100 hours of community service.
9. "The Tailhook Scandal", 1994,
10. Also from Herdy and Moffeit's "Betrayal In The Ranks: For Crime Victims,
11. See www.rawa.org for numerous reports.
12. "One In Three Women Worldwide Could Suffer Violence Directed At Her
Simply Because She Is Female", UNIFEM, November 24, 2003,
13. "Sexual Assault Statistics", www.stopfamilyviolence.org.
14. Jefferson, LaShawn R., "Human Rights Watch World Report 2004, In War as
in Peace: Sexual Violence and Women's Status", January, 2004,
15. Dixit, Promila, Time Out! Women Call Premptive Strike For Peace: Open
Letter to the United Nations Security Council, Spring, 2003. As a member of
WILPF, Promila Dixit has worked tirelessly for the enforcement of UNSC 1325.
16. "International Obligations To Protect Women's Rights", Amnesty
International, October, 2003.
17. Eisler, Riane, "Work, Values and Caring: The Economic Imperative For
Revisioning The Rules of the Game", Center for Partnership Studies, Pacific
Grove, CA, 2003. Eisler's The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future
is also critical reading on this subject.
"The obstacles are ideological rather than political. It is the expression
of patriarchal thought that permeates everything, that makes for a one-sided
vision of society ... Not only is there tremendous ignorance of a feminist
agenda, but when it is addressed it is addressed paternalistically,
condescendingly, in welfare terms. We are lacking in
profound and serious reflection on the subject." -Sofia Montenegro,
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