Archive for the ‘military’ Category

Jody Williams and the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Guest post by Kerry Crawford

To view videos from Global Gender Program’s celebration of International Women’s Day, see here.

Jody Williams at International Women's Day event on March 4, 2013. Photo by Milad Pournik.

Jody Williams at International Women’s Day event on March 4, 2013. Photo by Milad Pournik.

On March 4th the Global Gender Program and Gender at Work co-sponsored a day-long series of panels and talks honoring International Women’s Day 2013 at the Elliott School of International Affairs. Jody Williams gave the morning’s keynote lecture, focusing on her work with the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict.

Jody Williams is a tireless advocate for human rights and gender equality. In 1997 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her successful work toward banning and clearing anti-personnel landmines through the International Campaign to Ban Land mines. Williams was the 10th woman and the 3rd American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

The International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict, steered by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, is – as the name implies – a global coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and individuals working toward an end to rape and gender violence in conflict. Williams emphasized the importance of coming together and forming a coalition to create change, as individuals and organizations are far more influential when they work as a whole.

The campaign is based on three core approaches: prevention of rape and gender violence in conflict; protection of civilians and survivors of sexual violence; and effective prosecution of perpetrators and those responsible for rape and gender violence in conflict.

So why focus on rape and gender violence in conflict when violence against women happens every day in alarming numbers? Williams- and many of the members of the campaign- are quick to remind us that sexual violence in conflict is part of a broader continuum of violence against women. Rape and gender violence do not spring up suddenly at the onset of political or military aggression; rather, a larger and more insidious system of gender inequality breeds sexual and gender violence long before, during, and long after conflict. Focusing on rape and gender violence in conflict provides a valuable entry point through which NGOs and individuals can work to shed light on the continuum of violence against women and create broader and changes in gender relations.

Many creative and inspiring tactics have arisen from the International Campaign to Ban Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict. One Billion Rising united individuals in mass global action to speak out against violence against women and girls. The Stephen Lewis Foundation unites grassroots efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa by supporting women, orphaned children, grandmothers, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Jody Williams is a captivating speaker, in no small part because of her astounding humility. Selecting one key takeaway point from her lecture is a difficult task. Yet, the most essential lesson that should stay with all of us at all times is that violence is always a choice. Always.

Williams underscored the fact that we need to abandon our entrenched belief that there is something about the human condition that makes us inherently violent. Once we do that ending impunity for atrocities, especially rape and gender violence, may come more easily and the world may be safer for all of us.

If you would like to learn more about Jody Williams, you can read her new book: My Name is Jody Williams.

New U.S. Department of Defense instruction on sexual assault within the DoD

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Guest post by Kerry Crawford

On January 25th the Department of Defense (DoD) released a new instruction establishing policy, assigning responsibilities, and providing procedures for investigating cases of sexual assault within the DoD.

dod-seal-fullDepartment of Defense Instruction 5505.18 (Instruction) establishes policies and procedures for investigating any case of adult sexual assault linked to the United States military; this includes sexual assault occurring on military installations and cases in which a service member or his or her dependent (over the age of 18) is accused of or victimized by sexual assault. The Instruction outlines clear responsibilities for investigating sexual assault, including provisions for involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice, and local police jurisdictions when appropriate.

If you are interested in reading the Instruction and its enclosures, you can do so via this link: http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/550518p.pdf

Why is this Instruction important? Three related reasons come to mind.

The first is that even the most casual Google search for “military sexual assault” will yield scores of news articles and academic publications discussing the prevalence of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment within and related to military institutions.  For just one example, see the Huffington Post news stream. Sexual assault is a sadly common occurrence—but not an inevitable one. Although this is not a problem unique to the United States military, it is certainly one that needs greater attention from DoD and the Instruction takes a step toward addressing military sexual assault.

The second reason is that the DoD just lifted the ban on women serving in combat positions. Now, women have already been serving in de facto ‘combat’ positions for years since modern warfare lacks clear battle lines. Lifting the ban simply allows policy to meet reality and opens an additional 230,000 positions to women. For a veteran’s insight, see the Slate article by Kayla Williams.

The third reason why outlining the specific policies, procedures, and responsibilities for investigating military sexual assault is significant stems from a combination of the first two: with the combat ban lifted, women may hold more positions traditionally held by men and this leads to the question of whether or not sexual assault within the military will decrease or increase. For one scholar’s discussion, see the Columbia Journalism Review’s article.

When discussing military sexual assault, we must be careful not to paint women as victims or as the only victims of sexual assault; the Instruction itself adopts gender-neutral language when discussing perpetrators and victims, and specifies that sexual orientation should not factor into the investigation unless it is an essential aspect of the investigation.  Women serving in the military deserve the same respect, honor, and recognition as their male colleagues, and relegating survivors of sexual assault to mere victim status detracts from the esteem they deserve.

We can hope that more consistent recognition of women and men as equal in the eyes of the military and clear, enforced policies and procedures for addressing military sexual assault may lead to a steady decline in the problem.

Lifting the combat ban and issuing the Instruction certainly offer food for thought.

Celebrating International Women’s Day in the Elliott School

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

By staff contributor Cait O’Donnell

For more on the day’s events, please see full videos and photos.

On the 101st celebration of International Women’s Day, the Global Gender Program of the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs partnered with several organizations to put on an all-day event comprising two distinguished speakers (opening and closing the event) and two panels. This event was co-sponsored by GW’s Global Gender Forum, GW’s Culture in Global Affairs Seminar Series, GW’s Distinguished Women in International Affairs Series, GW’s Security Policy Forum, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute North America (SIPRI North America), the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

Barbara Miller, Director of the Elliott School’s Global Gender Program, opened the day’s events by remarking on the importance of International Women’s Day as a time to recognize both the specific needs and challenges that women and girls face around the world as well as their distinct capabilities and strengths. Continuing threads throughout the day included the need for more and better gender-specific data during peace and conflict, the importance of more complex and nuanced approaches to research on victimization and empowerment, and the importance of ensuring more research and policy attention to gender dimensions of war, post-conflict peacekeeping, and women’s empowerment and livelihoods.

Louise Olsson gave the opening talk on the subject of U.N. Peace operations with special reference to her research on Timor Leste. Olsson is a researcher at Folke Bernadotte Academy in Sweden, where she is also a project leader for UNSCR 1325. She organized her presentation around three issues: quality peace, security equality, and the effect of U.N. Peace Operations. She pointed out the connections between the first two concepts, saying that “…peace does not automatically mean equal security. Different groups can receive different degrees of protection by way of how operations and conflict resolution processes are designed.”

The first, crucial step, however, is defining peace. Is peace defined as the lack of war, of conflict and residual violence, of all forms of physical violence, or of all forms of physical and structural violence? Such negative definitions render peace as content-less. Olsson challenged us to include equality and social justice in the definition of peace. The case of Denmark, which ranks high on the Global Peace Index yet is also at war with Afghanistan, exhibits that devising a more complete definition of peace is laden with complexity.

Post-conflict peace-making is not always beneficial to women’s rights: women’s rights and equality can be compromised or sold out during peace agreements. People involved in peace operations often avoid gender issues because they are considered “too cultural.” Olsson insisted, however, that there are common, reoccurring gender issues from Namibia to Afghanistan. (more…)

What the world needs now: women in leadership positions for peace

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Women In International Security (WIIS) has recently joined the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in Washington, DC, as an affiliated program. To mark the launch of WIIS in its new home, WIIS sponsored an event highlighting women’s contributions to U.S. foreign and defense policy on January 18. It featured Michèle Flournoy from the U.S. Department of Defense and Samantha Power from the National Security Council in a conversation moderated by Nina Easton, Washington Bureau Chief for Fortune Magazine.

Nina Easton’s first question was about the recent announcement of the U.S. National Action Plan (NAP) in support of UNSCR 1325.

Samantha Power

Samantha Power said that the U.S. NAP’s launch was little noticed. She acknowledged the important role of Michèle Flournoy in its adoption. She noted that while we have axioms about how societies do and do not progress depending on women’s roles, and what happens when women are left out of development, peace processes, disarmament and demobilization, how women can be early warners of problems to come, we need more empirical work. We need policy that acts on these findings. All U.S. agencies are stepping up to change diplomacy. The NAP provides very concrete commitments. In the Department of Defense, the NAP will get integrated into doctrine. Plus, the President’s Executive Order is a statement of U.S. policy.

Nina Easton then asked about “cultural biases” in Afghanistan and how can the situation there for women move forward? Michèle Flournoy responded that U.S. policy has already had an impact on the ground. The separation of the genders means that women are off limits which prompted the development of FETs (Female Engagement Teams), an invaluable tool. The U.S. is helping to build capacity including women police officers, women army officers. And we are seeing the benefits in terms of people who can interact with the female population…the culture may be uncomfortable, but progress is being made including with women parliamentarians.

Michèle Flournoy

Nina Easton asked about possible resistance to women police officers. Michèle Flournoy said that, at a recent training in Kabul, reactions among the women’s families differed from pride to disavowal.

Samantha Power spoke about whether conflict outcomes are more peaceful when women are included. She noted the individuated nature of the human condition, and that we don’t have the case samples to assess the question. It will take time. Yes, women are more likely to be involved in health, education, and care. But we need an empirical base in order to draw conclusions. Secretary Clinton is making a case to include women in the economy. We need to get people talking about the NAP. But we still need data to make the pragmatic case.

Michèle Flournoy commented about differences in societies emerging from conflict. She said that we have not be able to document it yet but we agree that we need to build a body of work that will document the value of including women. While it’s very generalized, Carol Gilligan’s classic work holds a kernel of truth that men tend to be hierarchical and women tend toward networking/collaboration, “more often than not.” To help women leaders, we need to think about issues such as work-life balance, family leave, mentoring, and support.

Wanted Women: Book review

Friday, January 13th, 2012

The Economist provides a review of a new double biography of two women whose lives were transformed by militant Islam: “Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui are forceful, intelligent women who were born around 40 years ago in the heart of the conservative Islamic world, into families of some prominence. Later, they moved to America. Like tens of millions of others who made similar journeys, they had to negotiate the interface between an immigrant sub-culture that harked back to the homeland and a liberal society where very different options existed. Presented with two sharply contrasting value systems, two diametrically opposed ideas about the meaning of virtue, success and fulfilment, they had to make their choices.”

The book is:
Wanted Women: Faith, Lies, and the War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui. By Deborah Scroggins. To be published in Britain in February by HarperCollins.

The enduring costs of war for women, men, and families

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Guest post by Matt LeDuc

This day reminds Americans not only of veterans’ service to the country, but also of their struggles upon return. As U.S. troops leave Iraq by year’s end and the war in Afghanistan winds down, many combat veterans are coming home.

Former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth

This transition is often a time of great hardship for veterans. Some are physically disabled or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Years of heartache have taken their toll on family and friends. Many veterans return to broken homes and shattered relationships.

The bleak economy that confronts all Americans is the same for these veterans. In fact, it is often much worse. Among veterans, the unemployment rate stands at 11.7 percent, as compared to a national average of 9.1 percent (see the Department of Veterans Affairs www.va.gov for additional statistics on veterans).

Employers are often wary of hiring veterans, fearing problems with substance abuse or PTSD. The number of veterans who are homeless is large and growing population. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, more than 100,000 veterans are currently homeless, about 23 percent of the entire homeless population (National Coalition for Homeless Veterans: www.nchv.org).

Women veterans often face even greater difficulties than men upon returning home. Among veterans, 16.6 percent of women and 8.6 percent of men are unemployed. The rate of unemployment among women veterans is about 6 percent higher than among non-veteran women. The proportion of women veterans who are homeless is a small but growing segment of the homeless population.

There are several explanations for this gender gap among veterans. One reason is that women as a whole have fared worse than men in the current recession, partly due to deep cuts in the public sector. In addition, women veterans often need to care for family members upon returning, and must sometimes have to fight to regain custody of their children. Employment discrimination is an even higher hurdle for women veterans, as employers may feel that they are particularly susceptible to post-combat stress.

This last reason raises the broader issue of the image of veterans: even today, many people fail to think of women when they think of military members. Until this perception changes, the needs of women veterans will not be met.

Matt LeDuc is a research assistant with the Global Gender Initiative. He holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan and an M.A. from the George Washington University in Anthropology. Outside of GGI, Matt’s research has focused on the politics of cultural heritage at a UNESCO World Heritage Site in India.