Global Femicide: The Inhumane Actions of Ethiopian Military Forces Against Women & Children
Content warning: This article discusses sexual assault and violence.
Global politics has always incorporated global femicide into its range of weaponry and military tactics; however, with modern panels, legislation, and the committee on human rights, global femicide should not be an option. Femicide, along with gender-based violence, is an atrocity that should not be employed as a military tactic. In international politics, this form of gender-based violence is used by governments to suppress certain groups or enemies into submission. A modern-day example of this atrocity is the Ethiopia-Tigray War, in which the Ethiopian military regime raped and abducted girls from Tigray, a region in Ethiopia. This tragedy exemplifies the popular social construct of commodifying women’s and children’s bodies for military control. All countries that commit these atrocities should be charged with War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.
A femicide is a form of genocide that is enacted upon only women and girls. Femicide is defined as “the processes by which violence against women becomes socially acceptable and quotidian.” While it is true that femicide has become a socially acceptable means of wielding power in international relations, that does not mean that femicide is not genocide. For example, in regions like Tigray, women are brutally raped, murdered, and sold into sex slavery. Since our world has normalized this genocide of women, we must look to established laws and precedents to argue to the patriarchal society that these acts are inhuman and unjustifiable. In a world where male leaders instigate these egregious acts, we must play by their rules and rhetoric to make them understand that women deserve human dignity too.
Ethiopia’s militia must be stopped, charged, and punished for their crimes. Amnesty International’s Secretary General states, “it’s clear that rape and sexual violence have been used as a weapon of war to inflict lasting physical and psychological damage on women and girls in Tigray. In addition, hundreds have been subjected to brutal treatment aimed at degrading and dehumanizing them.” This dehumanization should not go unchecked in any circumstance. When it comes to women and girls, it often goes unnoticed and unpunished. We all need to be made aware of the tragedies happening daily to fellow human beings and become un-desensitized to femicide. Women and girls deserve human dignity and should have never been used as a military tactic through dehumanization, psychological abuse, and removal of physical agency to win a war.
BBC did an interview with survivors of the femicide happening in Tigray. Their accounts are horrendous to recall, but they chose to share their stories and relive their trauma. For example, “a 39-year-old woman reported being seized by Eritrean soldiers while traveling with her two children. “Five of them raped me in front of my children,” she told Amnesty. “They used an iron rod, which is used to clean the gun, to burn me. They inserted pieces of metal into my womb… Then they left me on the street.” Her story and her children’s stories matter. The Eritrean soldiers psychologically tortured children by degrading and violating their mothers. First, they physically burned her to show dominance and to scare her and her children into submission. Then, they inflicted brutal pain and dehumanization in an intimate area of her body. Finally, they left her and her children to die in the street. They wanted to psychologically and physically torture, and leave them for dead to send a message to Tigray’s people. This woman’s story is one out of thousands that are told, but there are thousands we will never hear because the victims are dead or missing. This example begs the question of how gender-based violence against women and children became a “justifiable” option in war.
Gender-based violence that dehumanizes the victims should have never been considered by the Ethiopian military regime because all humans deserve dignity. Unfortunately, the military has made it apparent that they believe women’s and girls’ bodies are commodifiable and destructible. Our global society does not value women’s lives enough to outright say that this is a form of injustice that must be stopped, so we must cite the U.N.’s definition of war crimes and crimes against humanity to argue that the Ethiopian military should be punished. Article 8 of the Rome Statute, concerning war crimes, states that “Willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments; Committing outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, as defined in Article 7, Paragraph 2 (f), enforced sterilization or any other form of sexual violence also constituting a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions.” More legal and moral reasons also constitute that Ethiopia should be punished for inhumane war crimes against women and children of Tigray, but action must be taken to prevent such horrors from occurring.
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This past Wednesday, Father Kenneth Sicard, O.P., started the President’s Office series “With Mutual Respect: Discussions on Contemporary Challenges.” In the email sent out to the campus community, the event was advertised as a space to discuss issues that polarize the nation and our community via respectful academic discourse. The discourse is encouraged by the liberal arts and Dominican tradition of truth-seeking and being uncomfortable in order to be thoughtful. The idea of practicing a liberal arts tradition of expanding thoughts and communication is admirable. Recognizing the hard work and time that went into this event is essential. However, as with all first-runs, some critiques should be brought forward and addressed.
The first critique to address falls in line with the event’s advertisement to the campus community. Students, faculty, and staff received the email stating that this was a presidential series meant to enact respectful conversations. However, PC for Life used the event as a focal point of their “Respect Life” week, which gives the false impression that the event is only meant to affirm pro-life ideology. It was jarring to see our campus take an opportunity at equal discourse on a contentious topic such as abortion and turn it into propaganda for one side of the issue. It was in poor taste to allow Campus Ministry to use the event as the highlight of their week.
Misrepresenting how the College advertised the event leads to certain community members treating this event as a debate. Debate means that one side must come out of the event victorious. One side of the issue “winning” is far from the purpose of discussing Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Those entering with the misconstrued approach of this event being a debate were not open to listening instead of speaking. The disadvantage is that they did not enter the event with an open mind for discussion and trying to find common ground. We were supposed to highlight differences in factual information and logical reasoning to find common ground between pro-life and pro-choice views. We were not meant to decide on a winning side of this discussion.
Another suggestion would be to add a warning about sensitive topics along with mental health resources. This past Wednesday’s discussion brought up the serious issues of sexual assault, rape, incest, lack of bodily autonomy, and force over another person. Therefore, it would be in the series’ best interest to add a trigger warning with appropriate resources for those in the audience who may have experience with one or more of these acts in their lives. Further, a warning about sensitive topics would be appropriate for the people in the crowd who may have had an abortion or had a family member affected by abortion. How each side discussed the issue could evoke strong reactions such that outside care may need to be sought.
For the next “With Mutual Respect” event, all advertisements should explicitly state that the series is not a debate to avoid more misrepresentation. Further, it should be ensured that the event’s promotion comes from a non-biased and strictly academic source. For final consideration, a trigger warning statement should be read at the beginning of these events. One must understand that having these conversations is difficult and not easy. So, these critiques are offered not in a negative light but in a positive manner to further our ability to have productive conversations on this campus. This past event curated many conversations about abortion in classrooms as well as conversations that occurred in private lives and between both sides. Therefore, some good is being done because we can discuss and find common ground.
Polarization: it is a word that has been spoken repeatedly over the past few years. It refers to the stark division between two opposing viewpoints or groups. This division has brought out something ugly within humankind: hatred. Disrespect and animosity have always been prevalent in our society, but the polarization of our world, nation, and local communities has given hatred a new space. This space has dominated how people interact with each other. No longer is there the time or the place to be able to civilly disagree with an opposing party, or to be in communion with one another. Without the space to communicate respectfully, the divide will continue to grow, and the actions surrounding how people treat each other will worsen.
How does one approach this problem, especially when there are fundamental differences in values and morality? This question is not something concrete or easily answerable. But the question is a necessary one to ask as everyone moves forward with their lives. I do not know the answer, but I do have a starting point. It comes with the vulnerability to be open to listening in the face of disagreement.
Personally, I struggle with this, and I tend to tune out when these situations arise. More recently, I have been challenging myself to listen and attempt to understand where other people are coming from. We all have different sets of experiences and there will never be a unanimous agreement on how we should live our lives. Instead, we should learn from what others are communicating, and how they experience life, and be respectful while engaging in these conversations. This can be especially difficult at times, but that’s when the hard work is done. If one does not engage in the work of listening, then one gives way to this polarization and hate.
I would like to acknowledge that I come from a privileged perspective while articulating this topic, so I understand that this approach won’t be possible for everyone. However, I do hope that we can all start to think about how to create these spaces for intersectionality, discourse, and openness in our day-to-day lives.
The hope of a collaborative and constructive community is what we should strive for moving forward. The reason for this is to eradicate the polarizing, hateful disposition that is negatively affecting everyone. It starts with a small group of individuals, but with the help of a community, then maybe we can grow together.