Wednesday, April 20, 2016

women as pawns of war

I'm not sure what else to say about the use of women as pawns of war besides the obvious: that it's atrocious. We are lucky to live in such a sheltered culture, completely unexposed to the horrors that take place outside of our pristine civilization. Americans are often quick to declare that sexism is gone, that women don't have it worse than men in any respect and feminism is a needless cause. We don't realize in other countries women are literally being raped and held captive, forced to give birth to their captors' babies as a form of ethnic cleansing. I mean, the Rape of Nanking, albeit 80 years ago, was literally so barbaric that Nazis viewed it as horrible.

I had never heard of any of these incidents, to be honest. The Rape of Nanking rings a bell but to be honest I've never known what it is, and to be honest, I'm not surprised I've never been taught about it in school. It was also shocking to read about the abduction of the Nigerian girls-- I feel like I had heard of it before, but I never thought about it this way. We have students at Governor's from Nigeria. It makes it hard to remain ignorant of the horrors taking place outside America when I literally have friends from the countries where this is happening.

We talked in class about if it would be better, as Azuma Shiro said in the Nanking article, if the soldiers had "only raped them [the women]", as opposed to raping and killing them. People had different opinions, but I personally thought removing the killing part would have no effect on how "okay" the event was. I think the horrific rape these women experience basically kills them on the inside anyway much of the time, so whether or not they are physically murdered or not is arbitrary. On Wikipedia under the article for Wartime Sex Crimes, psychological effects of being raped in war include  "depressionanxiety disorders (including post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS)), multiple somatic symptoms, flashbacks, on-going trauma, chronic insomnia, self-hate, nightmares, paranoia, difficulty re-establishing intimate relationships, shame, disgust, anger, and persistent fears." Many survivors end up committing suicide, or being killed by their families as a form of "honor killing". They are viewed as lesser in society for having lost their virginities; their futures are shattered. I think there really is no "life" after having been the victim of such a vicious crime.

I think raping female civilians in war, or even killing them, is almost used as a weapon to create a strong statement against community. Women are seen as the embodiment of the homefront during war.  They are not usually soldiers; their "job" is to make sure everything goes smoothly in the home, and to take care of the children. They are the thread that holds society together in times of crisis. I don't necessarily support this view of women, but I understand that it is more or less how society has always functioned.  Destroying the women of a community is ripping it up by its roots- it's the strongest message of hatred and disrespect that can be sent. The thing is that I can understand killing during war- it's kind of what's "supposed" to happen.  Even killing civilians seems to have a clearer endgame than raping them. There was no need for the soldiers to rape so many in Nanking; they did it because they could. I like to assume most soldiers fight and kill because they want to defend their country, or because they have orders to do so, not because they want to directly cause death, but I find it hard to believe that the soldiers who committed the rapes were "following orders".

The problem is that I don't see an end in sight to the human trafficking perpetrated by Isis and Boko Haram. It's not like terrorist groups will come forth and apologize for what they've done, or admit that they were wrong. No matter how many people sign a petition or join a group, it will not influence a group that thrives on antisocial behavior. What we can do is influence the political leaders who neglect our women's suffering, like the President of Nigeria who refused to acknowledge the kidnapping of the girls by Boko Haram until weeks after it happened. We can raise enough awareness about the Rape of Nanking that Japanese leaders are no longer permitted to deny its existence.  We may not be able to change the behaviors of those who commit the crimes right now, but we can help raise awareness and thus change the behaviors of the officials who turn a blind eye.

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