Debate Magazine

Love is Like War: Easy to Begin but Very Hard to Stop. H. L. Mencken

Posted on the 14 February 2011 by Humanwriter @roseforman

For extremist terrorism there was a significant turning point in the world, a day when everyone joined together and stated that they were waging a ‘war on terrorism’. This was of course September 11th 2001, and it will be forever etched in our minds. Does it take an event as substantial as destroying the World Trade Centre to really connect everyone to a cause? And will it take another milestone in our history before there becomes a world-wide war on violence against women?In Catharine MacKinnon’s article, Women’s September 11th: Rethinking the International Law of Conflict, she talks about how calling violence against women “a war” would be dismissed as metaphorical or hyperbolic. Unlike the war on terrorism there is no fight for supremacy of a state or control of power, it is the fight of the individual. Here, again, we are drawn to the dichotomy of the public and private, where feminist issues are seen as within the private eye rather than an issue for the public, eg: domestic violence. Many would say that mass rape during times of conflict, for example, is a case for the national courts, not an international issue as it does not affect the wider world in the same way that the actual conflict does, it is merely an internal consequence of conflict. However, these countries in which rape is a distressing consequence of daily life, such as Congo (see link to youtube video), do not have the necessary resources to convict people of rape. Often there is no evidence or the victims are too ashamed to make a claim against someone, sometimes being abused by large groups of men at any one time. Not to mention the disturbing amount of rapes committed by those in authority and even foreign forces, such as UN Peacekeepers (see link). MacKinnon says that the shocking truth of the fact is: “because so much violence against women takes places in what is called peacetime, its atrocities do not count as war crimes unless a war among men is going on at the same time.”Another issue here is that we, as westerners, don’t want to know. Terrorism is easy to understand and, relatively, easy to stomach the basic issues: religious extremism, anti-western ideology, martyred suicide bombers etc. But violence against women in conflict can often be too distressing that the media avoids it, therefore it boycotts the public eye. Take, for example, the malicious attacks on pregnant women that are surprisingly common or the tale of the woman in the youtube video who was forced to have sex with her son before he was murdered in front of her. These issues are distressing and shocking but surely that is even more reason for them to be publicised?The introduction of a UN Security Council Resolution on Sexual Violence in Conflict (in December 2010) intends to strengthen the standards of women’s peace and security. As well as the Council of Europe’s campaign to stop violence against women in Europe, however it is interesting to see on the homepage for their campaign it states that the Council has “decided it is time it stopped.” Surely it has always been time that violence against women stopped, in fact violence against anyone. Surely violence against women should have been stopped in Europe by the introduction of the European Convention of Human Rights? But apparently it takes a separate step, 60 years later, for the Council to “decide” it is time to stop violence. Therefore, will these resolutions actually combat the issue of domestic violence or sexual abuse? Do these resolutions actually help women at all or do they just acknowledge the problem (which, admittedly, is the first step to conquering the problem, but will it be another 60 years before any real action is taken?).
YouTube Video: Rape in a Lawless LandYouTube Video: Congo Soldiers Explain Why They RapeHarvard Law JournalC McKinnon, Woman’s September 11th: Rethinking the International Law of Conflict. 47 Harvard International Law Journal 1 2006.

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