WMC Women Under Siege

A post-#IWD2015 reading list: Stories on women and violence you shouldn’t miss

Back in November, global attention shifted for a brief moment from apocalyptic breaking news cycles just long enough for us to have an honest discourse on sexualized violence, thanks to the campaign for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. This month, we’ve been given that kind of opportunity again.

The UN’s convening of the two-week-long Commission on the Status of Women landed at the same time as International Women’s Day—not to mention a vocal run-up starting for the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action—creating yet another period in which to discuss the touchy, taboo subject of the global state of women. The Beijing Platform, created in 1995, aims to promote gender equality and the empowerment of all women. International Women’s Day was established in the early 1900s to celebrate women’s achievements and call for greater equality. And the UN CSW calls itself “the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.” All exist to mandate security, full participation, and equal status and visibility for women across the globe, a goal that we, in the 21st century, have yet to achieve.

For a brief, burning moment in the spotlight, voices from multiple platforms are participating in a discussion about women: how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go. Some of this is in the guise of very good, important journalism.

We selected a few of those articles, below. Together, the stories clearly illustrate where we are today—and, crucially, give the stage to the issues that still stand in our way.


Women and children celebrate International Women’s Day in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in 2012. (DFID)

You’ve reversed a long way, baby,” Foreign Policy
Leela Jacinto deep-dives into the “devastating year” that has seen women and girls around the world more vulnerable than ever, and looks unflinchingly at the Islamic State’s stranglehold on women trapped in areas under its control.  

International Women's Day: Grassroots women's groups going it alone, despite rhetoric on gender,” The Guardian
While advocates have fiercely campaigned and committed to elevating women’s groups in disadvantaged parts of the world, a drop-off in funding has been extraordinarily detrimental to these global efforts. There may be growing awareness of the importance of investing in women and girls, but Nicky McIntyre, executive director of international women’s fund Mama Cash, says it is “really clear that it hasn’t translated into funding." Meanwhile, women most affected by this failure are slipping through the cracks and remain largely ignored.

Even the Internet can’t escape the gender gap,” Newsweek
A look at the statelessness of the Internet and the dangers faced by women who participate in it. Women have less access to the Internet than men (in parts of West Africa and South Asia, women make up 25 percent or less of the online population) yet their chances of encountering cyberbullying, harassment, or even threats of harm are much higher than those men face. Lucy Westcott explores how women’s speech and security both need safeguarding in this evolving realm.

Why did a white girl writing about rape get kicked out of India?,” Vice
Mayukh Sen speaks to Sabrina Buckwalter, a U.S. journalist who worked in India almost a decade ago. After Buckwalter wrote about the correlation between rape and India’s caste system—long before the country was ready to acknowledge either—her Indian visa was denied and she was forced to leave the country.

China detains several women’s rights activists,” The New York Times
At least 10 women identified as women’s rights activists were arrested in Beijing over the weekend, according to The New York Times. The women were believed to have been detained in an effort to forestall a nationwide campaign coinciding with International Women’s Day to raise awareness of sexual harassment on public transportation.

The voice of South Sudan’s women must be heard to give peace a chance,” The Guardian
Leymah Gbowee, co-chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict, writes about the importance of including women in peace negotiations in South Sudan: “Imagine how the culture of impunity for serious crimes, including widespread sexual violence, would be shattered if our leaders had the courage to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes and create much needed space for survivors’ voices in peace building efforts.”

No justice. No truth. No reparations,” The Huffington Post
Physicians for Human Rights’ Widney Brown writes: “We are repeatedly told that claims of rape in conflict are exaggerated, that the victims do not want to speak about the violence because they would rather put it behind them, and that it’s nearly impossible to prove the crime of sexual violence. We have heard it all.” Brown has heard it all and she’s pissed, pointing her finger squarely at the “failure of investigators, prosecutors, and courts to seek justice for the victims.”

Exposing the rape problem,” The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe interviews Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering—the filmmakers behind The Invisible War, an Oscar-nominated documentary covering rape in the U.S. military—about their new film The Hunting Ground. The film follows Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, founders of the campus advocacy group End Rape on Campus, and not only hits us with painful statistics but also animates them for us, giving the viewer names, faces, and individual stories of how each survivor was failed by the institutions that were meant to educate and protect them.

International Women's Day: Surviving sexual violence during adolescence,” MSF.org
Doctors Without Borders observes the specific vulnerability—and selective targeting—of young women during their adolescence. Just as these young women are preyed upon with sexualized violence in the form of physical assault, they are also often coerced and betrayed by someone they know at a critical stage in their lives. Medical treatment needs to address both physical and psychological trauma in order to facilitate real recovery.

Narrating crisis in Sri Lanka,” Guernica
Dr. Nimmi Gowrinathan documents a journey to her native Sri Lanka to collect the stories of vicious political strife played out, in one way or another, on the bodies of her countrywomen. Her personal, moral hesitation to expose these deep wounds (rather than bandage them) informs her narration, and all the colors of culture, family, honor, and self paint a mosaic of “repressed memories of a repressed people.”



More articles by Category: International, Violence against women
More articles by Tag: United Nations, Sexualized violence
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