We must not make war safe for women

"We can not pluck rape out of war and let the war go on. We must not make war safe for women. It is time to abolish war," - Cora Weiss on the Nobel Women's Initiative conference on ending sexual violence in conflict

Cora Weiss
24 May 2011

Congratulations to the Nobel Women for convening a conference on violence, women and peace....I understand that Jody Williams' opening speech, which I have not yet read but - I have heard from friends - quoted me, was also devoted to peace. Her quote prompted this brief essay.

Congratulations to the Nobel Women for convening a conference on violence, women and peace....I understand that Jody Williams' opening speech, which I have not yet read but - I have heard from friends - quoted me, was also devoted to peace. Her quote prompted this brief essay.

Jody Williams speaking at the 2011 conference

Jody Williams addresses the
conference. Photo: Judy Rand

Rape is certainly the worst crime that any woman can endure. If she survives, the trauma stays with her for her lifetime. Nightmares, likely ostracism from the community, her husband will throw her out, and fear of sex will probably prevent her from a normal new life with a partner. This list goes on with possible STD's, HIV/Aids, and whatever other medical and emotional ailments develop. To say nothing about social and emotional effects on her children.

Rape is war's cheapest weapon. We can not pluck rape out of war and let the war go on. It is time to abolish war.

The campaigns against rape are numerous and important. Even the UN has a resolution, SCR 1960, targeting rape, abuse and violence against women. It was introduced on the 10th anniversary celebrating, or rather, honouring SCR 1325 on women and peace and security, which calls for the participation of women at all levels of decision making and protection of women during conflict. Instead of reinforcing that foundational and historic resolution which still cries for full implementation, 1960, put forward by US Ambassador Susan Rice at the behest of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, spoke of abuse and rape and ignored the "shoulders on which it stood" - UN SCR 1325.

UN SCR 1325 was drafted and vetted by civil society women around the world. It was based on local needs and values. Subsequent Security Council resolutions including 1960 on sexual abuse, were headquarters written and driven. Sexual abuse is a real and enormously serious issue, no question. But had the language been vetted by women on the ground they would have included a call for implementation of 1325 as one tool for reducing sexual violence, as they have indicated to us time and again.

I hate rape. I have enormous empathy for any woman who has suffered the physical and emotional effects. I am not a big fan of prisons (that subject for another day) but I certainly think rapists deserve serious punishment, and rehabilitation.

As long as women are not full and equal participants in governance, as long as we are considered the weaker sex, we will be vulnerable to abuses of unimaginable brutality. But, as long as we continue to resolve differences and conflicts with weapons, battalions, mercenary armies, and brutal force, we will continue to suffer the horrors of war which include rape. Small arms are frequently present in rape situations. Why don't resolutions and campaigns targeting rape also call for support for the Arms Trade Treaty, and control the production and trade in guns. Domestic violence rises at the end of violent conflicts, we are told, so why aren't we more proactive about preventing violent conflicts. I am not a Gandhian (although coincidentally our birthdays fall on the same day of the same month) but his theory that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, is not so far fetched. War and the weapons needed to carry them out is the currency of the day. We have even figured out how to avoid body bags from showing up on our televisions and you tubes...hire mercenary armies, and private contractors. No accountability.

We, the world, have all learned more and know more about conflict prevention, conflict resolution, mediation, and negotiation, to ignore their values. We are even incorporating peace education in curricula in many parts of the world, which includes teaching for and about gender equality, human rights, disarmament, social and economic justice, traditional peace practices. If a fraction of bloated military budgets were instead invested in training students in schools of education in peace education, and if practising teachers were given stipends to take a summer course in peace education, wouldn't that contribute to a less violent world?

It's a new century. We have successfully stopped (of course not entirely) many institutions we once took for granted: smoking, prohibition of women voting, racial discrimination, hate crimes, etc. No reason we can't stop the institution of war.

It's time to stop rape and time to abolish war.


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Join us for a free live discussion on Thursday 22 October, 5pm UK time/12pm EDT.

Hear from:

Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

Chair: Walid el Houri Researcher, journalist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Beirut. He is partnerships editor at openDemocracy and lead editor of its North Africa, West Asia project.

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