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Guess what The New York Times revealed today?

WASHINGTON (AP) — American Indian women are more than twice as likely to be raped as other U.S. women, and the suspects often go free because of confusing police jurisdictions and a lack of nurses, Amnesty International reports.

Salon.com has an excellent article on women soldiers in the U.S. Army who are sexually assaulted or threatened with sexual assault by their fellow soldiers.

Some excerpts:

I have talked to more than 20 female veterans of the Iraq war in the past few months, interviewing them for up to 10 hours each for a book I am writing on the topic, and every one of them said the danger of rape by other soldiers is so widely recognized in Iraq that their officers routinely told them not to go to the latrines or showers without another woman for protection.


“There are only three kinds of female the men let you be in the military: a bitch, a ho or a dyke,” said Montoya, the soldier who carried a knife for protection. “This guy out there, he told me he thinks the military sends women over to give the guys eye candy to keep them sane. He said in Vietnam they had prostitutes to keep them from going crazy, but they don’t have those in Iraq. So they have women soldiers instead.”


The real attitude is this: If you tell, you are going to get punished. The assailant, meanwhile, will go free.
Check out the article here.

As a feminist I find it incredibly frustrating to have to explain why feminism is still relevant to our generation of women. Those who don’t “get it” assume that everything’s all rosy now that women can (gasp!) vote and (shock!) succeed in their chosen careers – up to a point, of course. Gotta love how women on the tenure-track or whatever work ladder can easily be pushed aside or frowned at whenever they make the decision to a) have kids; b) take care of their ailing relatives; or c) deal with some real life issues that places work second to family and health matters.  Because that’s what we do: we make choices that benefit our lives outside of work (that’s why it’s a society) and we still get penalized for it in a way that men most often don’t.

But that’s not the only reason why I’m a feminist. My feminism is based on several things, such as: solidarity with women around the world who are fighting to be free of discrimination/violence/poverty/oppression; dissatisfaction with the feminization of poverty; anger at continuing structural, physical and emotional violence against women that permeates all aspects of our society. This last point is evidenced in porn, pop culture, advertising, low conviction levels for rape, stalking, domestic violence, multiple murders of sex workers, so-called “honour killings” (oh, how I hate that term), the Pussycat Dolls selling themselves as “feminists” (despite what they claim, they are not an example of women’s empowerment), sexual violence and threats of sexual violence, war, the threat of war, being called “frigid” or the c-word by a stranger at a bar because I won’t let him grab me…

So if you are also angry at continuing structural  violence against women, take a look at this post by Jill at Feministe. She is a few years younger than me, a law student, and a great writer. In recent months she has been targeted by a group of male law students (law students! those who are supposed to defend our liberties! those who are supposed to improve our society!) who have been stalking, harassing and threatening her via a popular law-school message board. The creators of this message board have claimed that this is about free speech, and refuse to defend Jill. But it’s not about free speech, it’s about slander, and violence, and hate speech, and nastiness. It’s about never feeling safe, because there’s always a creep out there (or, in Jill’s case, hundreds of self-important, privileged, wealthy, woman-hating creeps) who thinks it’s his right to go online, post your picture, and threaten to rape you, because he doesn’t like your ideas. This is an example of why I’m a feminist, folks: our society – including the “elites” such as those attending this law school – hates women.

This is our generation, and it’s our problem. Go read her post.

Those of us studying feminist IR, gender and conflict, “new wars” in Africa, and grassroots politics are never surprised by stories like this. Rape is very common in conflict. It is a deliberate strategy often used by all parties to the conflict, whether rebel groups or national militaries, or security services such as the police. In patriarchal societies (ours included) women are conceptualized in terms of their bodies and as reproducers of the nation. Rape is about power and hate. In conflict, rape is a way to humiliate and shame the enemy. It is done to take power away not only from the woman but from her family and community. It is at once a personal and communal attack.

We all know that in the years since the United States invaded Iraq security for women has been severely curtailed. Many Iraqi women are afraid to leave their homes. Occurrences of rape have multiplied in the last few years and many women have disappeared. When a Sunni woman claimed on Monday that she had been raped by three officers in the Iraqi National Police, the reaction wasn’t pretty. Iraq divided along sectarian lines: Shiites condemned her while Sunnis supported her. In a ridiculous move, Iraq’s Prime Minister released some kind of medical reports that supposedly show the woman was not raped. (U.S. military officials cannot confirm the authenticity of the document, nor can they say how the Prime Minister’s office actually got these records in the first place.) Now the Prime Minister’s office is calling her a liar and a wanted criminal. This is bullshit.
Here is an excerpt from today’s New York Times:

“If we want something, we will take; and things we don’t want, we will kill,” the woman said she was told.

She said that the attack was videotaped and that she was told she would be killed if she told anyone about it.

A nurse who said she treated the woman after the attack said that she saw signs of sexual and physical assault. The woman, according to the nurse, could identify one of her attackers because he was not wearing a mask, as were the others, and could identify a second attacker by a mark on his genitals.

The nurse would speak only on the condition of anonymity because she feared that Shiite militiamen would kill her for speaking out. The nurse said she was also wanted by the authorities, who believed the clinic she works at was used by insurgents.

She said the clinic was simply for Sunnis in the Amil neighborhood who were too afraid to the visit the Shiite-run hospital.

It is not uncommon for rape victims to be further attacked and vilified when they speak out against their attackers. It is very rare for women in Muslim societies – or any highly patriarchal society – to actually speak out against this, because they are often blamed and, in some cases, killed for making it public. Why would any woman in Iraq make up a story like this? As the NYTimes says:

Sabah Salem, a professor at the Baghdad University College of Law, said that while men were occasionally charged with rape in Iraq and punished, many cases went unreported.

“Rape cases in Iraq are viewed as a shameful thing to any woman regardless of the fact that she is the victim,” he said in an interview.

I’m surprised that the Prime Minister of Iraq would be part of these attacks on this woman. Whether the sectarian issue is “delicate” or not, the reaction should be to condemn rape completely, not to accuse the woman of making the story up. It looks like the Americans haven’t gotten around to conducting gender mainstreaming training for their new friends in the Iraqi leadership – not that I’m surprised. Prime Minister or not, he’s still blaming the rape victim, and that is wrong. Then again, given the high-profile cases of American soldiers raping Iraq girls, why would we expect them to get it either? Proof that there is still a very, very long way to go.

I remember thinking when the U.S. invaded Iraq that this would be very dangerous for Iraqi women. I wasn’t wrong.