How to Confront Military Sexual Violence? By Yusur Al Bahrani
How to Confront Military Sexual Violence?
By Yusur Al Bahrani
I was with my colleagues from the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW) setting up for our event Confronting Military Sexual Violence: Challenging Militarized Security on the first day of the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women. Our event was part of the CSW 57 non-governmental parallel events. It was an early morning event and coincided with the CSW 57 opening at UN Headquarter and other parallel events too with eye-catching titles. We were early and there was no one in the room except VOW delegates and some other women activists. Few minutes before the start of the event, the room became packed with peace-making CSW 57 participants. The packed room reflected the importance of the issue discussed and the urgency to find a solution to the problem.
The event began by screening The Invisible War, a film by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering. The documentary featured US army veterans who were subjected to sexual assaults. Although the documentary focused on US military, the panelists discussed the invisible war in the Canadian military. The panelists were: Tamara Lorincz, Betty Reardon, Dr. Rose Dyson and Renee Black. The event was presented by Janis Alton and moderated by Prof. Marilou McPhedran.
There are facts to be shared about the military Canada. Those facts were shared by Lorincz and are part of her article “Canada’s Invisible War: Violence Against Women in the Canadian Armed Forces”. Some of them are:
– Women comprise 12% of the Armed Forces.
– Approximately 100 women are in combat positions.
– Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime is concerned that data for sexual harassment and assault in Canadian military is similar to U.S. One to seven women have been sexually assaulted in the U.S. military and 80 % of cases of sexual harassment and rape go unreported.
Those crimes are systematic and require a systematic transformation to eliminate them. According to Black, there is no understanding of the barriers in reporting such cases. There are several barriers that hinder victims to report the cases. At times, the system is not in favor with the victims. We can all contribute in the transformation mission to eliminate assaults and violence. Lorincz encouraged to “act locally for transformation.” This could be by supporting demilitarizing campaigns, writing open letters, having awareness programs, or attempting to get the media attention. Everyone can take a different task. Dyson spoke on the harmful effects of media violence and how those contribute to hostility towards the vulnerable. I think that the most effective way to eliminate the media violence is for peace-making individuals and grass-root organizations to contribute to media. This will provide an alternate media with no violence.
Betty said: “The military is a creature of the state. It functions under the command of the state and serves the interests of the state.” As a woman seeking justice for other women, I feel the necessity to challenge the system that serves the state that at many times fails to provide justice to the victims and protect the vulnerable.
The film and the panel showed us the reality in a country considered to be the most developed democracies in the world. Calling upon the governments, whether in United States or Canada, to take their responsibilities to human rights is necessary. This begins with demilitarizing and saying NO TO WAR! NO TO MILITARY SPENDING! Let’s not forget that together we can make the world a better place.