Behind Enemy Lines: The War On Women

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It is a human right to look and feel good. And to be safe. However, as much as beauty is admired all around the world, it is also a devastating weapon causing traumatic violation for women across the world. We see beauty as a ticket for respect from men, but when does this respect turn into distasteful cruelty?

One of the most beautiful women on the planet, Angelina Jolie, has been striving for justice for victims of sexual violence in war zones, along with British First Secretary of State MP William Hague. Together they have been relentlessly working to save the lives of rape victims and to highlight a crime under looked within war.

Upon writing and directing the film ‘In the land of Blood and Honey’ (2011), (It’s deep)!  Jolie showcased the cold brutality of how women are used as a tool to satisfy male dominance. Set within the desolate war of Bosnia 1992-95, the powerful images of female bodies becoming part of the terrain of conflict in war reveal distressing notions that are still prevalent in war zones today across the globe.

While us women love to glamourize ourselves with relentlessly red lipstick, and smoky eyes for a night out, there are women being painted with purple bruises on their thighs, deep red blood trickling from their mouths, where a guard has beaten them to keep them constrained.

But rape isn’t just used as a by-product of war, it is used as a military tool for the perpetrators offspring to carry on the same race and increase their social control.  According to the Medecins Sans Frontieres report: “Women were raped so they could give birth to a Serbian baby”. It is a form of ‘ethnic-cleansing’ taking us back to the genocide of Nazism in World War 2.

Being more attractive in these zones means being at a higher risk as a piece of bait for soldiers to attack and violate a woman’s body. With such attacks, women are stripped of their dignity, their privacy, their confidence, and are replaced with feelings of shame, vulnerability and weakness, alienation and physical damage as well as the risk of HIV & AIDS. These women are destabilized living in raw terror, being victims simply for being female.

We have come so far in the West, to see women as equal to men; in government, in the police force, implementing power and strength, which makes it even more devastating to know that we are still seen as sexual commodities in so many parts of the world.

During the Bosnian war more then 50,000 women were raped leading to the first conviction of sexual violence as a crime against humanity. The Bangladeshi Independence war in 1971 had a disturbing 400,000 women raped. The Japanese-Nanking Massacre 1937 estimated 200,000 rape victims. Whether it be gang-rape, raped at gun-point or trafficked into sexual violence the beauty of women has been violated to mean something sinister in war.

“Women’s lives and their bodies have been unacknowledged casualties of war for too long” – Amnesty’s Lives Blown Apart report.

And so this isn’t a feminist rant but a human right’s case for global women’s safety and welfare. Ms. Jolie, who was recently presented with honorary damehood  by the Queen at Buckingham Palace, co-founded the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) in 2012 and co-chaired the End Sexual Violence in Conflict  (ESVC) summit in London stating:

“It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict . . . There is nothing inevitable about it. It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians. It has nothing to do with sex—everything to do with power. It is done to torture and humiliate innocent people and often very young children.”

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The initiative is working to replace the culture of impunity for sexual violence committed in conflict with one of deterrence – by increasing the number of perpetrators brought to justice both internationally and nationally; by strengthening international efforts and co-ordination to prevent and respond to sexual violence; and by supporting states to build their national capacity. - preventsexualviolenceinconflict.tumblr.com/

Many rape victims in war don’t survive, and if they do are too scared and ashamed to share their story.  These women are brave if they do, as one victim, (name undisclosed) described her attack in Bangladesh when she was only 14 years old “It hurt terribly at first but then I became wooden. I don’t remember how many times they raped me; after a while I didn’t feel or think anything. There was no-one to hear me scream.” 

This is a reality for so many women to be “abused sexually and in other ways”. When we here about war we don’t necessarily think about the microcosmic damage being done and the aftermath. Another victim states: “When your soul hurts, that’s invisible”.

And so everyone needs to take part in reducing the violence against women, so that the message can be spread and for communities to move forward in peace, equality and justice.

We  need to break the silence on this War on Women.

If you want to find out more about ending sexual violence in conflict go on the following link to see how you can get involved.

When we are watching the news about war conflict we never get to hear the story of how women are being physically tortured which is why I think it is paramount to share this today, because with knowledge we can act, make changes no matter how big or small, protect ourselves and our fellow humankind. ❤