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Posted by on Mar 31, 2014 in Blogs

Singers in the Band By Yusur Al Bahrani


Have you heard of Singers in the Band? If not, then it’s a documentary worth watching. I was fascinated to know that the award winning filmmaker David Goodman began working on his project Singers in the Band in the 1980s. When I was in New York for the UN’s 58th Commission on the Status of Women, the Canadian Voices of Women for Peace (VOW) cosponsored the event in which this documentary was screened.


The singers in the band are not happy women performing in a band. They were not there with us during the event. We were introduced to them via the documentary. We even don’t know what happened to the singers in the band.


Here what the event was:


“A screening and symposium on military sex trafficking organized by the International Institute on Peace Education, and the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, with the support of the Biosophiocal Institute.”


The event was on March 15, 2014 at Fordham Law School. Since it took place during the weekend prior to the second week of CSW58, many of those who attended were participants, delegates or audience for the CSW58 sessions and events. Not shockingly, the majority of those who attended were women, although the moderator and the chair were men. I am not shocked because women (rarely, any men) usually attend most of the women’s rights events that I have been to.


“I don’t like the word prostitute. I would like to say that those are women who are prostituted because they don’t have a choice,” said Rabbi Jon Cutler, US Navy Chaplain.


Those women featured in the documentary had no other choice. While lots of activists talk about violence against women committed in several parts of the world, we don’t usually hear about military sex trafficking in which women’s basic rights are being violated and they are being abused. Singers in the Band exposes the role played by the United States military in fostering “prostitution” and trafficking of women worldwide.


The documentary highlights only one particular aspect of militarism. Goodman unmasked that one particular aspect. It’s not like unmasking crimes committed by militias in the so-called developing world. It’s not like reporting on domestic abuse. Reporting on military sex trafficking was challenging and remains challenging. Goodman, who started working on the project in 1985, said, “Everything you saw is legal.” However, he also said “we are further now than we were in 1985.”


Just as said, sex trafficking is only one aspect. There are different forms of violence against women in the military system, including sexual assaults within members of the military.


“It’s the power. Someone who is higher in rank who will humiliate you,” said Colonel Anne Wright. She served 29 years in the US Army and Army Reserves, retiring as a Colonel, after which she was for 16 years a diplomat, resigning in protest against the Iraq war. “We have created more wars than anybody else in the last century.”


After watching the documentary, I was thinking about solutions. By the way, we were privileged to watch the documentary before its public launch. Solutions seem to be easy steps in theory, but they are never easy to implement. A solution, and the most important for me, is having women as decision makers. Those women must not regurgitate what the sexist system is dictating, but they have to be feminist voices of peace. Another important thing to note for men and women: if you are not affected by oppression, you don’t have to remain silent. Sex trafficking highlighted in the documentary happened in another part of the world. Does this make it right to turn a blind eye to the issue?


To view the trailer of Singers in the Band, check out the following link: