From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World:
Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!
This is the umbrella theme of the 2011 16 Days of Activism campaign, while five sub-issues have been identified as priorities for those working on the intersections of violence against women and militarism. One of the five issues and which i want to address today is that of Sexual and gender-based violence committed by state agents, particularly the police or military. An excerpt from the saynotoviolence.org website on this issue reads as:
Militarism tends to privilege a particular form of aggressive masculinity, and sexual violence is one tool that might be used to assert power over others. Individuals in positions of authority may believe they can commit crimes with impunity, and this is exemplified by high rates of sexual violence within the military, threats by police to women reporting cases of violence or assault, violations committed by peace-keeping forces, and violence against women living and working around military bases.
This thematic issue is timely especially in the past two days where news of the sexual assault of Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy by the Egyptian police came to surface. Watch the video below in which Mona describes her assault a few hours after being released.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siWK2b-7vIo] Mona explains that riot police broke her right hand and left arm in a brutal beating on Wednesday night, dragging her by the hair and sexually assaulting her as she covered the story on the confrontation between protesters and the Egyptian military. I’m glad that her ordeal was short lived but her experience is symptomatic of how sexual assault and violence is being used as a tool by those in authority to intimidate women, as Mona says, from activism.
I’ve been honored to meet Mona Eltahawy during her stay as a visiting professor at my graduate school and witnessed how much of an inspiration she’s been to my peers who had interactions at depth with her. And in the spirit of the umbrella theme of challenging militarism as one means of ending violence against women, her courage in the face of the ordeal and her will to share and put to shame her attackers is commendable.
On day ONE of the 16 days of activism against gender violence, i salute another brave woman on the front line. In solidarity with Mona Eltahawy!
Love & Light