“It’s More Dangerous to be A Woman than a Soldier in Modern Conflict”

by Soraya Chemaly. Originally posted at Fem2pt0.

I remember reading these words at a Women to Women International meeting a few years ago. They were spoken by Patrick Cammaert, the Deputy Force Commander of the United Nations Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2008, who said “It is probably more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern conflict.” This exact equation has been demonstrated and repeated hundreds of times since.

How can that be? War evokes images of young men, literally led to slaughter. For most people in our world, exposure to violent conflict comes in the form of occasional newspaper pages filled with pictures of young men and a few women who die as soldiers fighting wars in other countries. We don’t see pictures of women who die as civilians or those who are raped violently and repeatedly in conflict as a war strategy. We tend to think of children and women as collaterally damaged during war, when in truth, all over the world, they are fully, bodily engaged in conflict involving the regular use of men’s bodies as weapons against them.

In the span of one year, between 2006 and 2007, more than 400,000 women were raped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is 48 women raped every hour. In Columbia, between 2001 and 2009, a period of violent insurgency, 500,000 women reported being raped.

It is exceedingly difficult to obtain accurate data regarding the incidence of rape even in daily, civilian life. Obtaining it during times of war and in cultures where the stigma attached to being a rape victim results in ostracization or death, it is exponentially more difficult. On thing is certain however, rape is when men weaponize themselves and conflict is the time when rape as a mass phenomenon of power and control is most obvious and widespread.

Can rape during conflict be stopped? This is the goal of The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict, a collaboration between more than 400 Nobel Peace Laureates, international advocacy organizations, and groups working in conflict zones that launched this week. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism 1 Comment

The Lady Makes the Personal Political

by Jarrah Hodge

French Director Luc Besson’s new biopic The Lady is a moving portrait of the life of Burmese activist and political leader Aung San Suu Kyi. However, for a movie that clearly has a political goal (to raise awareness of the situation in Burma*), it focuses mainly on Suu Kyi’s family and personal life. As a result, while I enjoyed the movie overall it still left me feeling unsatisfied.

The movie opens in 1947 with the assassination of General Aung San, Suu Kyi’s father, who had just negotiated Burma’s independence from Britain. While it’s a poignant scene and crucial historical event it’s really all we see of Suu Kyi’s early life.

From there we go forward to meet the main characters in the movie’s romance, Suu Kyi (played by Michelle Yeoh) and her professor husband Dr. Michael Aris (David Thewlis). They and their two sons are living in Oxford when she receives the news that her mother has had a stroke. When she returns to Burma she witnesses the military-run government massacring protesting students in the streets. When she is then approached to lead a pro-democracy movement she decides to stay.

From this point the film becomes a bit plodding, seeming a bit like a visual representation of an encyclopedia article. It moves through every interaction Syu Kii has with the military junta and their attempts to intimidate and imprison her and her followers, leading to her 15-year house arrest and years of separation from Aris and their children. While we also see Syu Kii touring the country and speaking to locals about democracy, for the most part her Burmese allies and followers in the film remain nameless and voiceless.

Ultimately while the film brings the audience to tears more than once, it’s not over the plight of Burma or ordinary Burmese citizens, but over Suu Kyi and her husband’s drawn-out separation. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Pop Culture 4 Comments