The Global Summit to End Violence Against Women in Conflict held in London on June 10-13, 2014, helped spread awareness and offered solutions concerning violence against women in war zones. Reporting for Al Jazeera English, Bina Shah points out two important but unaddressed aspects of the problem—first, the summit’s lack of awareness about the causes of violence, and, second, accountability for perpetrators. Both aspects are best understood, Shah writes, in terms of “the skewed concept of masculinity in patriarchal societies, which operates in both war and peace.”
The summit raised indispensable questions regarding the excessive problem of sexual assault on women in war zones. However, only two of the 175 events that took place at this summit brought up men’s responsibility in ending this violence. Shah urges more emphasis on changing patriarchal attitudes, because they are ingrained in society but rarely questioned.
Unfortunately sexual violence is a widespread issue and there is no possibility for women to escape this vicious cycle of violence unless men become educated and break down conventional definitions of masculinity. By starting with summits similar to this one, raising general awareness, as well as focusing on the men’s role, sexual violence in war zones can be stopped. Shah writes, “We’re going to have to fix the men—because it’s a change in their attitudes and actions that will be the turning point in this war”.
Sexual violence, particularly in war zones, is a large topic and corporate media have covered some of the horror stories and referenced the Global Summit. None of the news articles in corporate media delve into the underlying causes of sexual violence in war zones or possible solutions, particularly regarding the role of men. For example, the New York Times reported two stories from the summit. On the first day of the summit, Alan Cowell drew attention to the summit’s goals and addressed the problem of sexual violence in war. However, his report did not include any solutions or address the role of men in preventing violence. Then on the last day of the summit, Stephen Castle reported on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s participation in the summit, including an account of the speech that Kerry delivered. However, Castle’s coverage did not provide any solutions.
Prior to the summit, in May 2014, an article in the Guardian did address sexual violence and the pressures that girls in the UK face. This coverage did make the point that it is necessary to educate boys and men in order to stop sexual harassment. The Guardian story mentioned the summit, but did not focus on it.
Bina Shah, “Want to End Sexual Violence against Women? Fix the Men,” Al Jazeera, August 13. 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/08/want-end-sexual-violence-agains-201481092749574120.html.
Laura Bates, “Education Is Essential for Changing Male Attitudes towards Sexual Violence,” The Guardian, May 30, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2014/may/30/women-sexuality.
Student Researchers: Morgan McCracken and Malyq McElroy (Pomona College)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth (Pomona College)