Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?
The above quote, attributed to actress Mae West, unfortunately has more significance than she probably realised and a lot of women haven’t been too happy to meet a man with a gun in his pocket…
History books, especially school history books, fail to mention the sexual exploitation of women in war. For example, watching the movie Suite Française, based on the novel of the same title, which did show mutual sexual relationships between French women and German soldiers, not all 70,000 French women would have consented to being made pregnant by an invading soldier. A point safely overlooked by those choosing our curriculum.
Even our youngest generation now has no excuse to say: “we didn’t know that happened in war”, because now they can see it and read about it everyday, whether it’s 12 year-old girls in Nigeria taken as sex slaves and or sold into marriage by Boko Haram or the thousands of Christian and Yazidi women and girls taken in the same manner by Daesh/ISIL in Syria and Iraq today.
Sexploitation of women and young men by members of the IRA on the island of Ireland in the recent “Troubles” is only now coming to light. Unfortunately there is no co-operation by the “Republicans” in bringing justice for the victims, still in their thirties and forties. Anyone is fair game for the “cause.”
But now we can see clearly that sex and power, when sex is separated from love, go together in war and terrorism: women are a prize, a right and men are to be humiliated. It’s all about abuse of power.
Guns have more than a passing significance to sex. We’ve heard of the “shotgun” wedding, “get out your weapon” “pump-action” etc. all show sex can be too macho and of course it’s the men who have the “gun”. We’ve seen the connection in the name of a pop-group; The Sex Pistols.
Two articles on this subject were published yesterday. The Financial Times has a feature on the Chinese women used as “comfort Women” by Japanese soldiers during the Second World War (Thousands of Chinese women were forced into sex slavery during the second world war. Here is one survivor’s story). And the Daily Telegraph has a feature on the war photographer Lynsey Addario whose autobiography is to be made into a film by Steven Spielberg (War photographer Lynsey Addario on tragedy, pregnancy in warzones and being played by Jennifer Lawrence).
Ironically, it’s not only in war men find an easy excuse to exploit women and girls. the first thing the Egyptians did when president Mubarak was deposed was to gang rape women. They were so brazen about it and felt such a liberty, they did it in public.
Is the world getting safer?
Twenty years ago, while still First Lady, Hillary Clinton made a ground-breaking speech in Beijing setting down a challenge to world leaders: to treat women’s rights as human rights. Since then, a new generation of women, including Hillary herself, have risen to some of the top jobs in global politics. But 20 years on from that famous speech, has anything really changed for women?
In candid interviews, Clinton along with her predecessors as Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright talk about the commitment they made to improve women’s rights – and the struggles they went through to make a difference.
The programme also hears from female politicians and campaigners from across the globe who have been making strides for change in their own countries. From the battle to give girls a right to education in Afghanistan, to preventing the growth of sex trafficking in India, the programme hears from the women who dare to speak out for their gender. In Liberia women helped bring an end to the civil war by making waves in their community. Organiser of the protests Leymah Gbowee reflects back on the horror of women of living in a country where rape is used as a tool of war; and how the women’s non-violent protest forced change and Liberia ended up with Africa’s first woman president.
The film also reveals the shocking extent of abuses in some countries and conflict zones and asks what Western politicians should – and should not – do to promote women’s rights and equality.
Yazidi girl tells of horrific ordeal as Isil sex slave: 17-year-old says she is one of about 40 Yazidi women and girls, some as young as 12, still being held captive and sexually abused on a daily basis by Isil fighters (click here)
An Amnesty International article: Click here
Sexual Slavery: (Here’s the Wikipedia entry)
Comfort Women (Wikipedia entry)
Comfort Women: Washington Post article: click here
Korean comfort women protest: From Al Jazeera
Lynsey Addario’s book website: click here
Her photography website: click here
Here is the effects of war and rape in Congo with an accompanying photo by Lynsey: (link)
The World’s Craziest Anti-Women Laws: Women’s advocacy group Equality Now calls out 44 governments for their laws against women: Click here
Nobel Peace Prize 2011 awarded to three great women: Click here
For images of Korean comfort women click here
UPDATE Dec. 2015
Japan agrees to compensate south Korean Comfort Women:
The horrific story of Korea’s ‘comfort women’ – forced to be sex slaves during World War Two
But South Korean ‘comfort women’ protest against accord with Japan – They had no say and are angry.
One woman vents her anger at South Korea’s foreign minister: Video
Yazidi Women and Girls raped and enslaved by ISIS/Daesh
January 2016 – The Yazidi, Christian and other women and girls as young as eight have been raped, tortured, murdered, sold as sex slaves and resold by the Islamist captors. The Financial Times reports Some 5,000 Yazidis were captured and enslaved as ‘war loot’ by Isis in 2014. Two escapees tell their extraordinary stories