VIOLENCE FORUM: Things to do Now to Stop Violence against Women
December 16, 2008 posted by admin If Vice-President-elect Joe Biden called me up seeking my input on how to build support for initiatives to end violence against women, I’d first thank him for wanting to hear from a young American woman, and a survivor of abuse, because it’s often women’s lack of political voice that enables violence to continue. Acknowledging Biden’s longtime advocacy on this issue, most notably, his drafting of the Violence Against Women Act (1994), I’d say, Joe, if you want to build support for this important law, and make sure it truly is the “greatest breakthrough in civil rights for women in nearly two decades” (NOW), it’s time to break through the military code of silence surrounding servicewomen survivors of sexual assault, and realize that to really end violence towards women, we must end war. As we celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this week, People magazine released the story of three enlisted women who were brutally murdered at Ft. Bragg, NC. One in three women who join the US military will be sexually assaulted or raped by men in the military. And in Iraq the Army may be covering up the rape and murder of dozens of women soldiers.
Meanwhile, Iraqi women struggle to provide their children with adequate access to food, water, electricity, safety, and schools, even after five years of US military occupation and billions of US dollars allegedly funneled into rebuilding their country. While General Petraeus said last spring that the presence of the U.S. military helps reduce violence, 71 percent of Iraqi women say they do not feel protected by U.S. soldiers and 65 percent report that US soldiers are only making security worse. The Iraqi parliament reports over 1.5 million widows, with an additional hundreds of thousands of families whose male breadwinners have either been arrested or have disappeared. This situation has created millions of households where daily subsistence is at best precarious. Dahr Jamail wrote, “Once one of the best countries for women's rights in the Middle East, Iraq has now become a place where women fear for their lives in an increasingly fundamentalist environment.” Joe, if you’re committed to ending violence towards women, then upon taking office as Vice President, you’ll work to fulfill Obama’s campaign promise to withdraw US troops from Iraq in 16 months, as well as commit funding to Iraqi refugees and to Iraqi institutions capable of rebuilding their own country. Additionally, you’ll take up the issue of the rapes and deaths of women in the military by encouraging Congressional hearings and working to see justice in the military. Voters proclaimed that “War is So Over” by electing you and Obama and we’re counting on you to lead us out of violence and into a more vivacious, thriving world for women and all citizens in 2009! --Rae Abileah is a national organizer with CODEPINK Women for Peace. She lives in San Francisco, California. This post is part of a forum