Remember the women

Today is Remembrance Day, the day that the regina mom learned was set aside to honour our war veterans, those who fought so we could have peace.  What no one mentioned during her upbringing was the hundreds of thousands of women who suffered as a result of gendered power during times of war.  No one taught her that rape is a weapon of war.

Warring groups use rape as a weapon because it destroys communities totally, says Major-General Patrick Cammaert, former commander of UN peacekeeping forces in the eastern Congo. “You destroy communities. You punish the men, and you punish the women, doing it in front of the men.” Adds Cammaert: “It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict.”

Rape has been a dishonourable camp follower of war for as long as armies have marched into battle. In the 20th century, perceptions of rape in war have moved from something that is inevitable when men are deprived of female companionship for prolonged periods to an actual tactic in conflict. The lasting psychological harm that rape inflicts on its victims has also been recognized: Rape is always torture, says Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Yes, rape is always torture.  The Amnesty International report, LIVES BLOWN APART, explores some of the horrors experienced by women and girls in war-torn regions

In most of today’s wars, civilian casualties far outnumber those of armed combatants. Women and men both suffer human rights violations in conflicts, such as unlawful killings and torture. However, the particular ways in which women are targeted for violence, or are otherwise affected by armed conflict, are usually overlooked.

Women and girls are more likely to be the target of sexual violence, especially rape. Women face extra, sometimes insurmountable, obstacles to obtaining justice, because of the stigma attached to survivors of sexual violence, and women’s disadvantaged position in society. Whether civilians or combatants, refugees or displaced people, the impact of war weighs particularly heavily on women.

In this report, Amnesty International shows some of the ways in which conflict affects women, and the many different roles which women play in conflict. Women are not only victims and survivors, but also activists, negotiators, peace-builders and human rights defenders. Attempts to address the human rights consequences of conflict, including its particular effects on women, can only be comprehensive and long-lasting if women play an active part in rebuilding society at all levels.

Last month, more than 100 countries agreed  to endorse the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The declaration holds that sexualized violence in conflict is in direct violation of international humanitarian law (IHL) and declares that the perpetrators should be pursued and arrested no matter where they are in the world. The declaration also calls upon signatory member states to do more than raise awareness to the issue and to provide better support not only to the victims but to national and international efforts to prevent and respond to sexualized violence in conflict.

80 nations refused to sign the Declaration, including Burma/Myanmar.

The international community, eager to praise these reforms, has neglected to call Burma out on its sexualized violence problem, ignoring the ingrained culture of impunity that has allowed sexualized violence to flourish for decades. The military regime that came to power in a 1962 coup has used rape, particularly against women in the ethnic and border regions, as a way to quell opposition movements and retain control. A weapon of war, the practice is typically employed to keep communities compliant by sowing fear and humiliation and punishing and interrogating those who would support opposition groups. Sadly, the Burmese military junta’s campaign of widespread and systematic sexualized violence continues unabated today.

And, shortly after that, the Government of Canada spoke out about violence against women in times of war.  But, the government refuses to provide funding through its international development program to help women who survive the atrocity and find themselves pregnant as a result and seek to terminate the pregnancy.

Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch is blasting the “abhorrent” practices of rape as a weapon of war and the forced marriage of young children in the developing world.

But she’s defending Canada’s refusal to fund any aid projects that might help the victims of such barbaric practices obtain abortions.

Leitch, who was at the United Nations on Friday to celebrate the UN’s International Day of the Girl, told The Canadian Press that Canada needs to target its aid efforts and has chosen to focus on pre- and post-partum maternal and child health.

How much does the regina mom despise her country of origin right now?  As one who has experienced rape, survived it and come out the other side of it, even though it did not take place in a war zone or a time of war, you can bet it’s more than a little.  The multiple impacts of rape are horrendous, without war thrown into the mix.
AI notes that the consequences of sexual violence experienced by females include “serious and chronic medical problems, psychological damage, life threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS, forced pregnancy, infertility, and stigmatization and/or rejection by family members and communities.” Few victims of sexual violence have access to health care in their time of need.
We must do more to end the global war on women.
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It’s a war on women

the regina mom collects links and writes blogposts.  She had it in mind to do a series around abortion because Motion 312 will be debated in the House of Commons on Thursday.  Not surprisingly, the links she’s collected do in fact have to do with abortion.  What has become exceedingly clear is that there is not only an attack on women’s reproductive rights in North American, but one that is global.

 

Many of you will already know about many of the ridiculous pieces of legislation passed or being considered in the USA.  17atHeart has compiled a list of links to pieces of anti-woman legislation in the US states.  Read it if you’d like to know a little more about how bizarre it is.  Life begins at conception?  Hullo?  the regina mom posts it here because it provides a window to what Canadian women could face should the anti-choice faction in the House of Commons have their way with us.

 

Women in the Ukraine are also seeing their right to reproductive choice attacked.  In response to the apparent collusion between the church and the state in preparing a draft law that would restrict abortions, some brave feminists of the group Femen climbed the bell tower of St. Sophia’s cathedral in Kiev. They barricaded themselves in, bared their breasts, dropped a black banner saying, STOP, and rang the bells to assure attention to their action.

 

Femen’s slogan is “We came, we undressed, we conquered.” The group specialises in topless activism, supporting women’s rights and fighting prostitution and trafficking and it travels widely, recently appearing in Davos, Milan and Minsk.

 

There’s an interesting map of the world which gives a glance at the world’s abortion laws. and the restrictions, if any, in each country.  Interestingly, however, even though abortion is legal in South Africa, unsafe abortions are on the rise there.  Dr. Mhlanga, an abortion rights advocate there, claims that’s because

 

the society remains patriarchal and religiously conservative. Many health workers will not provide abortion care because it conflicts with their religious views, and those who are willing to provide care often are stigmatized and marginalized by their co-workers and managers.

 

The story goes on to give some hope that religious zealots can indeed change. Mhlanga is one of the most ardent abortion rights activists in the country, but he used to be opposed to abortion.

 

Mhlanga himself was once a self-described “ardent born-again Christian with conservative views about sex and women.” In the early 1980s, however, he witnessed the death of a colleague who suffered complications from an incomplete abortion. He attended her funeral and there saw the four-year-old son she had left behind. That moment was his turning point. He felt that no child should ever be left motherless as the result of an unsafe abortion, and he began doing research and getting active on the abortion issue. At the time, South African law required women seeking abortions to get signatures from three doctors—none of whom could work in the same facility. That effectively kept many women from getting legal abortions, especially poor women in rural areas where there were few, if any, doctors.

 

Perhaps the ProLife (sic) caucus in the House of Commons would be interested in speaking with Mr. Mhlanga before insisting that we regress to a time where women died from unsafe abortions.

 

I know.  It’s wishful thinking, especially since the Harper Conservative government has slashed yet more funding to women’s health initiatives. The Women’s Health Contribution Program provided financial support for information and services across the country.

 

And then there’s the previously mentioned Motion 312.  Go read what the Canadian Labour Congress has to say about it.  Then, print out a copy of the petition opposing the motion, pack it in your purse or pocket and pull it out whenever you meet up with other people.  Invite them to sign it.  Once you have 25 signatures, send it to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.  The folks there will forward it to a prochoice Member of Parliament who will, in turn, present it to the House of Commons.

 

 

Harper continues to ignore will of Parliament

And I’m not referring to the prorogation perogative he was granted in order to avoid a motion of nonconfidence in Parliament.

No, I’m talking about the resolution Parliament passed in June, 2008, the one that says, “conscientious objectors to wars not sanctioned by the Security Council of the United Nations” should not be deported from Canada.  An Angus Reid poll conducted in June 2008 showed that 63 percent of Canadians (that number again!) agreed with allowing war resisters to stay in Canada.  That’s likely because they know the US invasion of Iraq was not sanctioned by the Security Council of the United Nations and is, therefore, an illegal war. Refresh your memory here.

Harper, however, doesn’t have to listen to Parliament, eh? Cuz he’s the Supreme Being, apparently;  he is above the law and certainly above the whims of a majority of Parliament, or so it seems.

Needless to say, I was a little miffed when this landed in my inbox today.   (Note:  There is an action item at the bottom of this post.)

War Resister Cliff Cornell Told to Leave Canada by Christmas Eve

Rivera Family to Get Decision on January 7

Toronto — In the latest of a series of deportation orders, Citizenship and
Immigration Canada has told war resister Cliff Cornell, of Nanaimo, BC, that
he must leave Canada by December 24, or face removal by force. Cliff,
originally from Arkansas, arrived in Canada in January 2005. He currently
works as an Assistant Manager of a retail store near Nanaimo, where he has
an excellent work record.

Cliff’s deportation order comes after similar orders for war resisters Corey
Glass, Jeremy Hinzman and his family, Patrick Hart and his family, Matt
Lowell and Dean Walcott. Like them, Cliff has begun to build a peaceful and
productive life in Canada and hopes to stay in his new country.

War resister Kim Rivera will receive a decision on January 7. Kim served in
the US Army in Iraq. She came to Canada with her husband, Mario, and their
two children, Christian (6) and Rebecca (4) in early 2007. Kim had a new
Canadian-born baby, Katie, on November 23, 2008.

The War Resisters Support Campaign continues to call upon the Harper
government to implement the will of Parliament, as expressed in a House of
Commons motion adopted on June 3, 2008. The motion recommended that
“…conscientious objectors to wars not sanctioned by the Security Council of
the United Nations,” such as the Iraq War, be allowed to remain in Canada
and apply for permanent resident status. It was adopted by a vote of 137-110
and also directed the Government of Canada to stop deportation proceedings
against all of the war resisters here.

I was further miffed when I called the office of the Minister Responsible to voice my concerns about this and the receptionist would not refer me to anyone who could speak about the issue to me.  She had been ordered to not refer telephone calls on this issue to anyone except the call centre.

I am not the only one concerned about this matter.  Sandra Finley, former leader of the Green Party of Saskatchewan, a woman who is going to court for her refusal to fill out a census form that would be processed by Lockheed Martin, an arms manufacturer, had an earlier conversation with a Kenney Executive Assistant who claimed to know nothing about the Parliamentary resolution,

I spoke with Ministerial Assistant to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney,:

Essentially I was talking with someone who knows very little about something
he should know a lot about.

It is disconcerting, to know that people in the Minister’s office, in the
Canadian Dept of Immigration, where this has been an on-going issue for a
long time, do not know the most basic of information.

I won’t go into all the details. Some of the back-and-forth:

Lyntner: – no, I am not aware of anything passed by the House of Commons
(that would prohibit the deportations).

(I supplied the date and nature of the motion passed, and mentioned that
the deportees are people who resisted an illegal war.)

Lyntner: – who says it was illegal?

Me: – I don’t believe you would challenge the fact that the Bush
Administration used lies as the basis for dropping bombs on Iraq? There
were no weapons of mass destruction, as claimed. And I don’t think you
would challenge the fact that the U. N Security Council refused to sanction
the war? … okay. There are international laws that prohibit a state from
just dropping bombs on other countries.

Lyntner: – at some point in all this he says “well, that’s your OPINION
that the war was illegal”.

Me: – International Humanitarian Law, also known as the Law on Wars
makes it illegal. It is not my opinion. It is IN FACT an illegal war.

Lyntner: – well who passed that law? A country has to sign these laws
before they are binding.

Me: – The United Nations passed the various conventions that make up
International Humanitarian Law and Canada is signatory to those treaties.
Google “International Humanitarian Law” or “Law of War” – you can find it
all.

Lyntner: – There are many different agencies (how can it be “international”
or “UN”).

Me: I am aware that there are many different agencies. But they all fall
under the rubric of the UN. There are International Laws that clearly make
the War on Iraq an illegal war.

Harper doesn’t care about anyone but himself and his own power.  We, as compassionate Canadians do and are taking action:
Contact Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney and ask him to:

• STOP deportation proceedings against U.S. Iraq war resisters, including
Cliff Cornell and Kim Rivera and her family; and
• IMPLEMENT the motion adopted by Canada’s Parliament to allow U.S. Iraq war
resisters to apply for permanent resident status.

Here are the numbers to call:

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney
Call 613.954.1064

MP Jason Kenney’s Parliamentary office:
613.992.2235

Or email him at:
minister@cic.gc.ca
or
Kenney.j@parl.gc.ca

Please cc the opposition party critics if you email Jason Kenney:
Liberal party immigration critic Borys Wrzesnewskyj:
wrzesnewskyj.b@parl.gc.ca
NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow: chow.o@parl.gc.ca
Bloc Québécois immigration critic Thierry St-Cyr: st-cyr.t@parl.gc.ca.