A Look at Gender-Based Violence during History

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Human history is plagued by the phenomena of gender-based violence, manifesting itself in many forms from domestic violence, sexual assault, and femicide, historically violence is methodically and intentionally directed towards the female population of the globe, magnified and intensified in times of war and anarchy. This tolerance and facilitation of horrendous acts of violence against women is the inevitable consequence of the monopoly of politics and the governance of the international order by men, these key power imbalances through disproportionate representation generates systematic sexism and violence against women, who often become the primary casualties in conflicts sanctioned and orchestrated by men for men. The strengthening of an implementation of policies resembling or emulating CEDAW, the convention on the elimination of discrimination against women, would aid in greatly reducing the frequency in which women incur violence, CEDAW focuses on women’s rights and issues worldwide through strengthening substantive equality, state obligation, and non-discrimination. Substantive equality challenges gender norms and roles that reinforce the invisible line between men and women, which consequently categorizes stereotypically masculine traits as aggressive, assertive, and tough, while simultaneously labeling women as passive, submissive, and weak, these traits assigned to men and women regardless of the reality that these characteristics may cross gender lines, than become associated with different careers, and positions, typically in leadership roles, stereotypically masculine traits are seen as best suited for or compatible with being a leader. These gender roles inevitably contribute to a variety of issues, such as disproportionate representation in government.

The corrective approach, unlike the protectionist and formal approach, recognizes key differences between the needs of different genders while reaffirming general equality by placing an obligation on the institution whether governmental or environmental to correct the issue of gender inequality by implementing rules and policies that take gender into account. The second principle of CEDAW is state obligation, CEDAW is one of the most widely ratified conventions on the globe, 188 countries have ratified CEDAW, meaning the signed state as implicated they are willing to make adjustments and measures to elevate women’s status in the country and facilitate a more egalitarian society, with gender equality as a key principle of societal living.

Within a given state the government, and generally its three branches: executive, judiciary, and legislature must coordinate the success and implementation of gender equality, every four years the countries that have ratified the convention must go before a committee to report on their process and prove the steps they have taken to achieve gender equality based on four outlining principles, first, respect, meaning the country does not enact discriminatory laws, and practices, and has repealed any laws that were discriminatory. Second, the state must protect women, ensuring that non-governmental institutions abide by non discriminatory laws and practices, by implementing sanctions on non-government agencies that discriminate against women. Third, the state must promote women’s rights, by building awareness of the issue of inequality. Fourth, the state must fulfill women’s rights, by cultivating the correct conditions and capacities to enable de jure and de facto equality. In summary the state must do its due diligence in providing for and protecting women’s rights. Finally, the last principle of CEDAW of nondiscrimination, which focuses on the respective states direct and indirect discrimination against women, primarily direct discrimination is the laws and practices of a country that restrict or limit women and children’s access to citizenship, participation in government, and access to education. Indirect discriminatory laws, are gender neutral laws that give the same opportunities to both men and women without taking into account the historical disadvantages that accompany being female. Here is where the paradigm of patriarchy comes into play, patriarchy is the idea that male rule is central to societal organization, and relies on the subordination of women.

The occurrence of wartime sexual violence is apparent in key conflicts throughout history, the focal point of research has been the civil wars of the past few decades. Researchers such as Susan Brownmiller, when conducting her 1975 study on rape, wrote, “war provides men with the perfect psychologic backdrop to give vent to their contempt for women.” And when surveying the civil wars of the 80’s and 90’s in the high scale war raged against women in Yugoslavia, El Salvador, and Sierra Leone, prove exemplary of the phenomena of sexual violence was perpetrated by armed combatants and noncombatants, men and women, and took the forms of both random and systematic sexual slavery, sexual torture, and gang rape, in these cases sexual assault was either encouraged, tolerated, or directly ordered as a part of officials agenda to spread terror, and complete the objective of dominance.

Despite the many misconceptions about wartime rape, the frequency at which it occurs studied by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) of all forty-eight conflicts in Africa surveying various armed state organizations, rebel groups, and militias 64 percent of armed groups were not reported to have engaged in any form of sexual violence, the misconceptions about the nexus of rape with the U.S. State Department concluding that only 36 percent of conflicts in Africa had high levels of sexual violence compared to Eastern Europe, however which reported the highest level of rape in 44 percent despite the elusiveness of the topic and the many open-ended questions resulting from a chronic lack of data, such as whether wartime crimes against women are increasing, decreasing, or even remaining consistent, however, the issue of wartime rape is still a pressing one, that requires immediate action in the form of policy that could not only radically transform our country and countless others, but help promote a more egalitarian society in which gender equality is achieved.

Policy must be aimed primarily at armed combatants, not the lower level grunts or soldiers of war but the top tier commanders whose orders directly affect the frequency, magnitude, and type of violence orchestrated during conflict, thus if their power and ability is curtailed commanders can institutionalize and normalize the ideals of egalitarianism and greatly reduce the likelihood of violence against women, especially when the leaders who monopolize violence and whose direct orders lead to the suffering and deaths of countless women are made examples of in criminal court, and imprisoned. Exemplar of the international courts failings to implement policy, justice, and reform is the reversal of the guilty verdict for Jean-Pierre Bemba in 2018, Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa called it, “a historic moment in the battle for justice and accountability for victims of sexual violence in the Central African Republic and around the world,” Bemba a former warlord, and now presidential candidate in the Congo, was tried for more than a decade in The Hague international court for the horrendous acts of violence, and sexual assault perpetrated by his troops in the Congo between 2002-2004, however this ruling was overturned after an appeals court stated that Bemba was “erroneously convicted … for specific criminal acts that were outside the scope of the charges as confirmed,” despite the fact that at his trial contained over 5,200 victims testimonies to what they witnessed and experienced at his hands and orders.

Wartime sexual assault and the lack of justice for victims and convictions of perpetrators is not a solely African nor Congolese issue, the chronic lack of justice after the Bosnian war is exemplary of the international issue of injustice for the female survivors of war. Twenty Five years after the conclusion of the Bosnian War that devastated the small Eastern European peninsula, the estimated 20,000 women who were raped have yet to receive reparations, justice, or acknowledgment of the atrocities they experienced despite international law requiring Bosnia and Herzegovina (the BiH state) to guarantee them justice, transparency, and reparations, however despite these ordinances, Amnesty International reveals a combination of variables that have stagnated the healing process, such as an ineffective constitution, judicial and official institution, that has resulted in a rampant inability to meet the victims basic needs denying them the ability to find closure, and start new lives, “I don’t trust anyone anymore, especially not the state. They all failed me. I live only for my son. He is the light of my day. As for me…this is not life. This is more like being on a life support machine.” said Sanja a Bosnian war survivor, Sanja was kept in sexual slavery during the war, and continues to be harassed by her perpetrator even after the war, Sanja turned to social services who turned her away, her story delineates the complete failure on the behalf of the BiH’s judicial and official institutions to reconcile the effects and tragedies of the war.

Amnesty International has concluded that the activity and magnitude of war crime trials has increased, largely due to international pressures and support of NGOs resulting in the BiH completing 123 cases and convict 134 perpetrators since 2004, however these cases are only a small portion of the 900 cases currently on backlog, and these 900 cases only represent a small sample of the many crimes, perpetrators, and victims that emerged and occurred during and after the war. The BiH war crimes trials can be characterized by high acquittal rates and reduced sentences for those convicted, nearly two thirds receive only 3 – 5 years of imprisonment, while in some jurisdictions defendants may benefit from various legal loopholes and provisions that allow for sentencing of only 12 months or even fines, allowing perpetrators of rape and violence to buy their way out of prison by gaming a flawed legal system and ultimately thwarting justice.

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A Look at Gender-Based Violence During History. (2020, Jul 06). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-look-at-gender-based-violence-during-history/

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