Protecting women from image-based sexual violence and abuse

Protecting women from image-based sexual violence and abuse

 

WOMEN

Protecting women from image-based sexual violence and abuse 

image of a phone
ellen mcveigh
15th January 2021

A couple of months ago, many women woke up feeling intensely violated and angry. A server containing thousands of nude photographs saved and shared without consent from the women in the images circulated online. This is sexual abuse.

The server was a collaborative effort by several men using Discord and other networks. Media ranged from private and paid content on OnlyFans, to screenshotted images or saved videos from social apps like Whatsapp and Snapchat. It included stolen content, non-consensual images of women sleeping or in changing rooms, images and videos sent consensually for private viewing and film-based child sexual abuse.

Cue the victim-blaming. The excuses, misogyny and degradation. For women, cue the fear, hurt, anxiety, and anger. We are all affected by the leak, whether it impacted us directly or not. This horrendous act of violence is not the fault of any woman who appeared in that folder. We live in a digital era. People will always take nudes and people will always send nudes. Often labelled “revenge porn”, the term does not capture the severity of the offence, implying that blame should be focused on the victim. It is never the fault of any person who has sent an intimate photograph to someone they trusted, or the fault of sex workers on private websites who have had their content stolen.

This culture of blame and entitlement is founded on the actions of perpetrators such as the men involved in this mass-scale act of violence. The absence of justice is the fault of an unconcerned, patriarchal culture and our judiciary system. Rape culture is prevalent in Ireland – violence against women and children has risen during the pandemic. There is nothing wrong with sexual expression and expecting respect; there is everything wrong with passing-on an intimate photograph, without the consent of the person in it.

When the scandal broke in November last year, image-based sexual abuse was not a criminal offence under Irish legislation. There was no penalty under Irish law, no consequence for harmful misogyny. It was not illegal for someone to share an image of me, a woman, online without my consent. There was nothing to protect me from blackmail, from attempted humiliation, from the unjust job losses that became a reality for women in the past. But speak out against the abuser? Well, that was defamation.

 

There is nothing wrong with sexual expression and expecting respect; there is everything wrong with passing-on an intimate photograph, without the consent of the person in it.”

 

The HSE had encouraged phone, internet or “cybersex” instead of face-to-face physical contact amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, there was zero protection from the law. The fallout of mental health issues lands on the overstretched charities who work tirelessly fighting for change, for issues that require more than simply a legislative shift.

The publication of private images, videos and other content is an ultimate breach of privacy, trust, bodily autonomy and consent. Ireland has consistently failed to protect women and children, instead protecting abusers and criminals. Fighting against overt expressions of abuse is the beginning – further action must be taken toward dismantling and challenging the unhealthy, toxic attitudes toward women and sex ingrained in so many people’s psyches.

On the 17th of December 2020, under pressure following public and political outrage, the Harassment, Harmful Communication and Other Related Offences Act was passed in the Dáil. The law is welcome and long overdue; but concerns remain. As it stands, the statute of limitations is two years after the photo was taken, which urgently needs amendment to “after discovery”. Photos can be shared for years before victims become aware of its existence, as proven in this large-scale case at the end of 2020. This is a conversation for everyone, that does not end with legislation.

As a society, we need to educate young people and provide better sex education. Reports suggested 500 men were on the server. Much more presumably knew about it and said nothing. Many exist in separate group chats, where this behaviour is common. More are complicit in enabling this violence, by viewing the content and staying silent. By not calling out this behaviour, by not leaving these forums and group chats, by holding onto images they should have deleted previously.

Sharing private images in an attempt to humiliate or degrade adult women who are comfortable with their bodies, is a pathetic and desperate attempt at ego inflation. A short-term and feeble hit that comes with having a cheap laugh at someone else’s expense. The act is not about sex; it is about violence, power and control. This is a conversation ALL men need to have with each other and something that every individual should reflect on.

We all have mothers, sisters, partners and friends. But respect and consent should not only be understood by men in context to their own lives. These dehumanising attitudes and behaviours serve no purpose in the progressive Ireland we tirelessly fight to build. Do your part in ending the violence. It has no place in society.

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Jonah Pettrich on Unsplash

 

 

 
We must be committed to addressing child labour

We must be committed to addressing child labour

OPINION

We must be committed to addressing child labour

child labour
Elizabeth Quinn

Elizabeth Quinn

10th December 2020

Child labour is an issue that is now commonly looked at from a human rights perspective, but this has not always been the case. Until the late 1980s, there was almost no discussion of the idea of freedom from child labour as a human right, and no operation programmes in place to address the issue of child labour. Rather, it was regarded as inevitable in much of the world due to economic circumstances. This changed in 1989 when the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted. The Convention’s ratification created an environment for the discussion on child labour to take place openly in international institutions such as the International Labour Organization (ILO).

 

Child labour is usually defined as work which deprives children of their potential and dignity and is harmful to their physical and mental development. Within the ILO, the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) was instrumental in informing the development of the Convention on the worst forms of child labour. They did this through research, information dissemination and implementation activities. IPEC work was grounded in the Conventions and development of decent work. It involved many stakeholders adhering to the tripartite approach which the ILO takes – including member states, workers’ organizations, and employers’ organisations. The projects taken on by IPEC aimed to ensure the best interest of the child and bring visibility to the widespread and harmful nature of child labour.

 

The ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour has become the only labour law Convention in the world to be universally ratified by all member states. Its universality is the result of long and persistent work undertaken by the ILO, IPEC and many NGOs, and sends a signal to all states that there is a global consensus that these forms of child labour are unacceptable. When children are in slavery, forced labour and trafficking, are forced to participate in armed conflict, and are used for prostitution or in hazardous work, action is immediately and urgently required. The ILO Convention’s ratification means that the elimination of child labour is firmly rooted as one of the fundamental principles and rights at work.

 

However, ratification does not equal elimination. This is clear from comments from ILO supervision on the Convention. For instance, in Angola, there is an emphasis in the report on children still working in the informal economy. The informal economy consists of independent, self-employed and small-scale producers and distributors who are not generally covered by the country’s labour laws and regulations. Countries still need to enforce and ensure implementation of the Convention is effective through inspection and clear legal frameworks. In New Zealand, hazardous work was found to exist for children under 18 which contravenes the Convention. This meant that in 2006 about 300 children under 15 years old visited the doctor for a work-related injury.

 

The Covid-19 crisis, however, puts the achievements that have been made in the prevention of child labour at risk, increasing economic insecurity and affecting many low-income families.

The other major convention on child labour is the Minimum Age Convention. This Convention, in contrast, is not universally ratified, meaning that not all countries have signed both Conventions – this can be problematic in tackling child labour holistically. This Convention is in place to achieve the abolition of child labour by prescribing minimum wages for work. National policy must also be designed to ensure the effective abolition of child labour, but there is flexibility in the Convention. For example, Article 8 allows for an exception for artistic performances of children, with safeguards as permits are needed to limit the number of hours and prescribe the conditions of work.

 

This exception has not kept pace with the recent development of the child influencer. Ryan Kaji, one of the top child influencers, has been placed as one of Youtube’s top earners with a fortune of $26 million. These child influencers do not have prescribed conditions and hours of work. People argue that this is not child labour as it does not involve work, and the children are enjoying themselves. The reality is that for a lot of children work is involved. They are brand ambassadors, have paid sponsorships and are considered by brands as influencers. These child influencers are working without protection, and have fallen outside the international labour law protections. This precarity is being looked at by countries such as France which has introduced new legislation to protect young child influencers. This new legislation aims to regulate the hours under-16-year-olds can work online and what happens to their earnings. This legislation should also start a conversation in the ILO on campaigns that need to be initiated to ensure that child labour laws around the world remain in tune with reality.

 

The Covid-19 crisis, however, puts the achievements that have been made in the prevention of child labour at risk, increasing economic insecurity and affecting many low-income families. As a result, the root causes of child labour such as poverty are likely to be exacerbated. The closure of schools and a significant loss of parents’ income may amount to an increase in child labour. IPEC has been examining solutions to this problem, such as raising awareness, supporting countries, providing education to adapt to the new situation and advocating for the prolongation of socio-economic measures to strengthen national budgets for vulnerable populations. Social dialogue should be something which is prioritised in providing solutions to these issues. The children and families who will be most affected by the pandemic should be listened to. While governments ultimately create public policies, other voices are needed to shape these policies and ensure nobody is getting left behind. As 2021 is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, the is ILO planning to raise awareness of the issue to accelerate progress and eliminate child labour in all its forms. This is welcome news; high labour standards and protection from the worst forms of child labour are needed, now more than ever, to prevent the entrenchment of even deeper inequality.

 

 

Featured photo by Luis Prado from the Noun Project

 
 

 

Can COVID-19 bring a cycling revolution to Ireland?

Can COVID-19 bring a cycling revolution to Ireland?

ENVIRONMENT

Can COVID-19 bring a cycling revolution to Ireland?

cycling in Dublin city
Elizabeth Quinn

Elizabeth Quinn

4th November 2020

Covid-19 has prompted us to re-think our systems of travel. In particular, it has encouraged many people to lose a few extra wheels and take to a saddle, handlebars and peddles instead. Many cities around the world have put in place temporary and permanent measures to encourage people to cycle during this time. The question remains – will these measures be enough to lead to a future where people see cycling as a viable and efficient way to travel?

 

I moved to Sweden in September 2019 to begin my master’s studies. In all of my introduction meetings and meetings with other students, I was given one piece of consistent advice – get a bike. Biking is a way of life here and one I have adapted. My friend and I, who also moved to the Netherlands recently, had a conversation about how we loved the freedom we had with our bikes. We can safely cycle anywhere we want because of the infrastructure for biking which exists where we live. I cycled in 2015 in Dublin and cannot say that I felt the same. Lacking infrastructure, Dublin created a sense of insecurity in me.

 

With Covid-19, the thought of a lot of people in confined spaces on public transport is not ideal. Social distancing on public transport is next to impossible, especially in highly populated cities. Countries worldwide have had to re-think how to promote travel and keep everyone safe. 37 out of 94 biggest EU cities announced cycling measures in response to Covid-19, providing a chance to redesign our cities for the future.

 

Milan is one of Europe’s most populated cities and has been hit hard by Covid-19. The city has begun schemes to reallocate street space for cyclists and pedestrians. There are 35km of new cycle paths and cyclist numbers on Milan’s main shopping street have risen from 1,000 cyclist pre-Covid-19 to 7,000 now. Generally, 55% of people who live in Milan use public transport to get to work, but the average commute is less than 4km which makes the switch from public transport to cycling a realistic potential for many. The government is also supporting those who wish to cycle and have pledged up to €500 to citizens who want to buy a new bike.

 

“37 out of 94 biggest EU cities announced cycling measures in response to Covid-19, providing a chance to redesign our cities for the future.”

Paris has also been leading the way in investing in cycling. €20 million euro has been ring-fenced for cycling since the start of the pandemic and uptake has increased. The French government is giving people €50 subsidies towards bike repairs and offering free cycling lessons for the general public. The number of people learning to cycle with these courses has increased from 150 people to over 300 people during the pandemic.

 

The Irish Cycling Advocacy Network which was set up with the goal of cycling becoming a normal part of everyday life in Ireland has been a force for change. They believe that Covid-19 is prompting us to reimagine our lives and our systems and rethink the way in which we commute. There have been record sales of bikes reported. The Irish government has responded in some ways to this uptake in cycling but more needs to be done for it to remain a sustainable alternative to public transport.

 

Some suggestions of what the Irish government should do are included in the Irish Cycling Advocacy networks pre-budget submission. Recommendations include allocating 10% of the transport capital expenditure (€360 million) annual budget on cycling projects, increasing subsidies for e-bikes and expansion of the bike to work scheme to be more inclusive to focus on low earners, students and unwaged. Institutional changes are also highlighted as needed in order to create a system which respects and encourages cycling. Legislative changes are also needed such as 30km/ph becoming the default speed limit in built-up areas and cycling promotion, especially among marginalised groups. Focusing not only on measures which should be taken but also institutional and legislative change which will provide the best long-term results for cycling encouragement.

 

The government have allocated the suggested amount of 360 million on walking and cycling projects in the Budget 2021. The government will support cycling projects in main cities, increased funding in greenways and the roll-out of the safe routes to school programmes. Greenways are traffic-free paths which are predominantly in rural areas. The Minister for Transport stated that a greenway must also link to urban areas efficiently in order for them to be used not only by tourists but also by the local population. This makes sense in order to have the best long-term results. The budget seems to take the suggestions of the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network seriously.

 

The change to cycling that COVID-19 has prompted has been long fought for. Cycling is having a moment. In order for this moment to be a lasting one political leadership is needed. Many schemes set up have been temporary. We must actively engage with politicians to keep the political will alive to invest in cycling not only now but also in the future.

 

Featured photo by IrishCycle.com

 
 

 

STAND Festival 2020: Indigenous communities must be heard

STAND Festival 2020: Indigenous communities must be heard

OPINION 

STAND Festival 2020: Indigenous communities must be heard

STAND Festival 2020: 'The impacts of climate enforced migration among the most vulnerable communities'
olivia moore

Olivia Moore

28th October 2020

On Tuesday 13th October, STAND, with support from UCC Enviro Soc, TCD Enviro Soc, UCC Fáilte Refugees Soc and TCD VDP Social Justice, held an online panel discussion on “The impacts of climate enforced migration among the most vulnerable communities”. Chaired by Amali Tower of Climate Refugees, the panel included Jackie Qataliña Schaeffer (Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium), Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim (Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad); Jannie Staffansson (Indigenous Peoples Rights Activist) and Genevieve Jiva (Pacific Islands Climate Action Network).

 

The panel members began by discussing the field of their work and their personal involvement. Jiva described her work with PICAN which, comprising 130 member organisations across the Pacific, champions knowledge and leadership into the effects of climate action on the area. The Pacific, she detailed, is considered to be at the front lines of the climate crisis, as climate forced migration and relocation align with intense cyclones, coral bleaching, king tides and sea-level rise. Staffansson, growing up in a reindeer-herding family, is seeing fast changes occurring as a result of temperature-rise, which caused many of the indigenous species to suffer. Accordingly, she decided that she would try to adapt by educating herself in indigenous knowledge to adapt to climate change.

 

Schaeffer, from a traditional Alaskan background, is also witnessing the suffering of her own community as a result of rising sea levels and temperatures and tries to help science and research to understand the importance of the elders’ knowledge of nature in order to help with adaptation to the new climate. Ibrahim, by contrast, coming from a nomadic culture in the Chad Basin surrounded by desert, looked back on her childhood, noting that so many of the different species of birds, insects, flowers and animals that she played with have now disappeared, mentioning that in 1960, Lake Chad measured 25km2, whereas now it only measures 2km2. Ibrahim summed up what all the panellists were working towards: “a platform at the international level to make the voices of indigenous communities heard and taken into consideration in the realm of climate change and climate forced migration.”

 

Schaeffer expanded on the struggles facing her community: the extreme weather variances prohibited infrastructure, due to the eternal truth in that “pitting modern infrastructure against mother nature, mother nature will win every time.” The summers are becoming hotter and longer, the winters colder and shorter, and as a people of the ecosystem, her indigenous community that depends on the land and food resources and agriculture are seeing climate change drastically affect plants and animals. However, she maintains that her people have lived for 17,000 years on the land; they successfully survived a period of time in which summer lasted all year round, and a lot more besides; so to Schaeffer, this instance is a mere “glimpse in time” which is not going to win.

 

Ibrahim summed up what all the panellists were working towards: a platform at the international level to make the voices of indigenous communities heard and taken into consideration in the realm of climate change and climate forced migration.”

Staffansson emphasised that some areas that were previously untouched by colonialism were now being destroyed in favour of windmill parks, for example. She asked, “Why not put them in places where you need them, beside the cities? In places where you have already destroyed the biodiversity?… We have paid for it enough.” She acknowledged that it is difficult to adapt and survive with climate change, but to also fight as a community against renewable energy destroying her lands: while it is preferred to fossil fuels, the price should not always be paid by indigenous people and their family, lands and animals. Ibrahim agreed also that it is not just about human species, but about the ecosystem as a whole.

 

Jiva acknowledged that the first thing that needs to be accomplished is visibility: the Pacific is so excluded in international spaces; and if it is not seen, then how can people care? A third of the world’s oceans are in the Pacific, lined with thousands of years of culture and history, and indigenous knowledge and science in the communities that are trying to survive. She noted how often neo-colonial thinking exacerbates suffering, for example, Australia’s grand compact.

 

Ibrahim described the impact that the Covid-19 crisis was having on her region – the Map of Hunger 2020 showed that Chad is the most vulnerable country, with an increase by 35% of food insecurity. She finds that countries are just focusing on Covid-19, when climate change is the main issue, as it makes people vulnerable. And those that are vulnerable will always be affected more by any crisis.

 

However, Schaeffer found some light at the end of the tunnel: because of the basic challenges of lockdown, her community had to revert to traditional methods of traditional medicines which were then shared across regions in the state. She emphasised the community mindset of such peoples, the focus on the bigger picture.  “The western mindset is self – family – community, while the indigenous norm is community – family – self.” This has never been more relevant than in the current climate.  She urged the youth to become their own inspiration – the voice of the youth has to be powerful but it has to be acknowledged first. The young should allow elders to tell their stories and share their knowledge; inspiration will only be what they know, and they can only know what they teach.

 

STAND Fest 20: The impacts of climate migration among the most vulnerable communities (STAND.ie, 2020)

Jannie urged the youth to take care of their community, “spend time with your sisters, gather around the fire. Gather with your community, and if you don’t have one you need to create one and take care of it.” She pressed further: “If you are young there will come a time where you need to walk the streets and protest, for us indigenous peoples that live so close to nature, seeing everything we love dying or already dead… There is still time.” 

 

Ibrahim called it the “youth battle, not only the indigenous fight,” imploring us not to “let them decide in your place, decide for the future that you want, and you can do it.” Jiva urged us to work as intergenerationally as possible – you can’t fix the future without learning from the past. Her final words were words that echoed the message of the entire discussion: “Get involved. You are our leaders.” 

 

Conall Keane, Social Justice Officer of Trinity Vincent de Paul Society, was also in attendance of the panel discussion: 

 

I thought it was a very insightful discussion that really showed just how diverse and widespread the issue of climate change is. Hearing from a range of communities around the world – a rare positive side-effect of the current restrictions on in-person events – with such different cultures, such different ways of living, and such different experiences, yet all sharing the common misfortune of struggle with climate change, brings to light the stark reality of what most people only loosely understand to be a global issue.”

 

The unequal burden of the impact of climate change was evident to Conall who felt “hearing about the severe damage that we in Western countries cause for these communities serves as an urgent reminder that the issue of climate change needs to be brought more into the public eye; the fact that people from the places in the world that are least impacted by these issues are the ones who are making the key decisions on behalf of those who are suffering the most is awful and unjust, and listening to the accounts of the speakers added greatly to the frustration I felt with those circumstances. For that reason, I think it’s more important than ever that we educate ourselves and each other on the issue of climate change because unfortunately, we can’t easily shift the imbalance of influence so the only alternative is to cultivate an awareness and understanding of the problem in those places that are in the position to bring about the necessary changes.” 

 

You can watch back the panel discussion above or on Youtube here. For Conall, “the simultaneous wonder and frustration that the discussion evoked are a testament to how worthwhile a discussion it was! 

 

 

 

Featured photo by STAND

 
 

 

The complex relationship between climate change and migration

The complex relationship between climate change and migration

OPINION 

The complex relationship between climate change and migration

climate migration
deepthi suresh stand news

Deepthi Suresh

17th October 2020

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1990 noted that the greatest single impact of climate change might be on human migration. Millions of people could be displaced by shoreline erosion, coastal flooding and agricultural disruption. The meteorological impact of climate change can be divided into two distinct drivers of migration: climate processes such as sea-level rise, salinization of agricultural land, desertification and growing water scarcity; and climate events such as flooding, storms and glacial lake outburst floods. Successive reports and various other studies have argued that environmental degradation due to climate change is poised to become a major driver of population displacement. It is a mega humanitarian crisis in the making. These repeated analyses or predictions, such as the possible displacement of 200 million people by 2050, may have made the argument of climate change increasingly confident in the scientific community – but the consequences, and its impact on human population distribution, largely seem unclear. The adverse impact of climate migration cannot be portrayed by the simple imagery of a coastal farmer being forced to pack up and move to a rich country.

 

From livelihoods to identity, the environment plays an important role in everyone’s daily lives, hence different types of climate migrants. Climate change would therefore influence many people’s decisions to stay or indeed to move. There is a rapidly growing literature contributing to the migration-environment theory: (1) migration is a fundamental strategy for addressing household risk arising from the environment; (2) environmental factors interact with broader socio-political histories; (3) the migration–environment association is shaped by social networks.

 

The first group who were forced to relocate from their ancestral homes due to climate change were the inhabitants of the coastal villages in Alaska – namely the Shishmaref and Kivalina groups. The low-lying coastlands of Bangladesh and India have faced severe storms as a result of the dramatic change in climate. A sea-level rise of 20 inches could displace over 6 million people in Bangladesh alone. As a result, many rural Bangladeshis have migrated to the capital, Dhaka, thereby resulting in an increase in the population growth to about 17 million, and thus also causing severe strain on the capital’s infrastructure. As the trend suggests, more affluent people have the opportunity to emigrate, while the most vulnerable people from poor households are trapped in risky areas.

 

Climate migration occurs both between and within countries. It may be temporary or permanent. It could follow existing routes or forge new ones. The impacts of climate change could trap people in dangerous places, and on the other hand, force people to move. Most people move within their own country if they are forced to flee due to floods, droughts and rising seas. But sometimes, when disasters unfold more slowly, some people decide to move across borders – either with or without the help of their governments. Climate migrants’ choice of potential destinations is further affected by the policies in these destinations.

 

It also seems as though there has been a collective and unfortunately a successful attempt to ignore the scale of this problem. Climate migrants who were forced to flee due to sudden or gradual changes in their natural environment as a result of climate change are omitted in international refugee and immigration policies. There is considerable resistance to the idea of expanding the definition of political refugees to incorporate climate refugees. When, where and how people will be forced to move as a consequence of climate change remains elusive, as do definitions about what it means to be a climate migrant and how best to govern the problem. It is also highly likely that the burden of providing for climate migrants will be borne by the poorest countries, especially by those who are least responsible for emissions of the greenhouse gases. This plight has been thoroughly observed and discussed, yet with no sustainable solutions to the horrifying crisis faced by political refugees. Those who are forced to move as a result of climate change are not protected by existing laws, and thus, the human rights afforded to them are unclear.

 

The complex status of human mobility is further debated upon, including the argument surrounding whether or not the climate migrants should be given a climate-specific legal status in addition to the refugees’ status (if given in the first place at all). It might also lead to a biased debate and would give only partial solutions to address the issue of human migration and climate change.

 

According to the Division of UN Migration Agency (IOM), the media has time and again pushed for features on climate refugees. In contrast, however, some of the smaller affected communities or states do not want to leave their homes or would rather move in dignity through regular channels without having to leave everything behind and run for their lives. IOM stresses the fact that “reducing the issue of migration in the context of climate change to the status of ‘climate refugees’ fails to recognize several key aspects that define human mobility in the context of climate change and environmental degradation.’’

Some of the aspects are as follows:

 

1. Climate migration is mainly internal: when migration is internal, the migrants remain under the responsibility of their state, as they do not cross borders and are not seeking protection from a third country or at the international level.

 

2. Migration is not necessarily forced, especially for a very slow onset process of climate change. In this instance, migration is still a matter of choice, even if it occurs in a constrained manner, so countries need to set in place a proper strategy migration management and agreements rather than refugee protection.

 

3. It may be an impossible task to separate environment or climatic reasons from humanitarian, political, social, conflict or economic ones as it may lead to long and even unrealistic legal procedures.

 

4. Creating a special refugee status for climate change-related reasons might, unfortunately, have the opposite effects of what is sought as a solution: it can lead to the exclusion of certain categories of people who require protection, especially the poorest migrants, who are moving as a result of a mix of factors and would not be able to prove the link to climate and environmental factors.

 

5. Opening The the 1951 Refugee Convention might weaken the refugee status, which would be tragic given the state of our world in which so many people require protection because of persecution and ongoing conflicts.

 

6. Creating a new convention might be a lengthy political process that countries may not even have an appetite for. Many responses can come from migration management and policy as highlighted already in the 2011 International Dialogue on Migration and the recently adopted Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The Nansen Initiative that was launched to look at gaps in protection for people being displaced across borders by disasters, undertook thematic and regional consultations and also concluded with a document that proposed a “toolkit” of migration policies, rather than recommending the establishment of a new status for these people.

 

7. Climate migration discussions should not lose their focus on preventive measures: the key objective of our generation is to invest in climate and environmental solutions for our planet, so that people will not have to leave their homes in a forced way in the future. The Paris Agreement offers anchorage for climate action that considers human mobility to avert, minimize and address displacement in the context of climate change.

 

8. IOM encourages the full use of all the existing bodies of laws and instruments pertaining to human rights, refugees etc.

 

9. Human rights-based approaches are key in the addressing of climate migration: states of origin bear the primary responsibility for their citizens’ protection, even if their countries have not been the main contributors to global warming; they should therefore apply human rights-based approaches in terms of their citizens moving because of environmental or climatic drivers.

 

10. Regular migration pathways can provide relevant protection for climate migrants and facilitate migration strategies in response to environmental factors. Many migration management solutions are available as a response to challenges posed by climate change, environmental degradation and natural disasters, in terms of international migratory movements. They can provide a status for people who move in the context of climate change impacts, such as humanitarian visas, temporary protection, authorization to stay, regional and bilateral free movements’ agreements, among several others.

 

It is of the utmost importance that greater resources are dedicated to mitigating the complexity of climate migration and to the finding of an effective solution. Further research is needed to determine the best ways in which to improve the migratory process, be it through providing safer modes of transport, or by increasing migration monitors, and most importantly, by improving the destination country integration resources. The solution and strategies that the international community might indulge in together may be the defining factors of international relations in the 21st century – which is presently in dire need of restructuring.

 

To learn more about ‘Climate Migration’ check out STAND’s online student festival taking place between the 12th – 24th of October 2020. To register for online workshops, creative events and panel discussions, click here!

 

 

 

Featured photo by pxfuel

 
 

 

Women and the Military: Could pushing female representation do more harm than good?

Women and the Military: Could pushing female representation do more harm than good?

OPINION + WOMEN

Women and the Military: Could pushing female representation do more harm than good?

Women and the military representation
Aoife Burke

Aoife Burke

2nd October 2020

From female CEOs to LGBTQ+ visibility in films, the participation of under-represented groups in powerful institutions has been widely praised as both a reflection of and a catalyst for, social progress. However, to what extent individual representation should be prioritised is a matter of serious contention within social justice movements. In the age of tokenism and performative allyship, many are now asking: how useful is representation in and of itself? If individual members of marginalised groups are in positions of power, will the necessary changes for their community be achieved, or do we need a collective movement of oppressed groups to attack systems of inequality from the outside? These questions have been particularly divisive in feminist discussions on women and the military.

 

Some women’s rights advocates argue that in countries such as the U.S. and Britain, the army is an instrument of patriarchy and imperialism that cannot be participated in from a feminist perspective. However, the argument generally put forth by liberal feminists is that progress in this area cannot be gained without female representation in the military. For instance, when all U.S. military positions became open to women in 2015, the move was praised by some as a victory for women’s rights; but some left-wing feminists argued that this development widened the reach of the American military, an institution that ultimately perpetuated violence against women of colour in other countries. In Britain, there was a similar discourse about whether the opening of combative roles to women should be interpreted as a feminist milestone. Today, the use of feminist language in British Army PR campaigns has raised scepticism again. When Laura Whitmore defended her appearance on the British Army podcast, she argued that “every industry and body is bettered by… a balance of all sexes”. While this is often true, is possible that the push for female recruits may do more harm than good for women’s rights?

 

 

There are undeniable benefits to promoting female representation in many contexts. Increasing the number of women in decision-making roles can lead to more gender-sensitive policies being adopted and improve institutions as a whole. For instance, when women are involved in negotiating peace processes, this not only increases the likelihood of gender provisions being included in peace agreements but also increases the sustainability of peace in general. The importance of female representation in influential roles is often discussed in the context of critical mass theory. This theory argues that having a very small percentage of female decision-makers is unlikely to progress gender equality. However, once a critical mass of female representation is achieved, usually estimated at 30%, women’s interests are more likely to be defended. This theory can be applied to boards of directors, political offices and any position involved in policy-making. However, does it apply to army recruits?

 

In considering this, it’s important to remember that the advancement of women’s rights through representation can only happen when women are actually given decision-making power. Entry-level cadets and lower-ranking members of the military have no say over the rules they follow. Moreover, even the highest-ranking members of the military ultimately do not determine their nation’s foreign policy agenda, and how it may impact female civilians. Therefore, when the army pushes for female recruits, be it through making more positions available to women, or using feminist talking points in their recruitment campaigns, this does not necessarily present an opportunity for women to shape military policy. Of course, it could be argued that a higher level of female participation at entry level will eventually lead to more women in higher ranks. However, gendered barriers and widespread discrimination make it unlikely for a critical mass of women at the top to be achieved through the normal course of promotion. If the British military actually wanted to include a female perspective, they wouldn’t be using media campaigns – they would be adopting targeted internal policies such as quotas for high ranking positions. Given that the army has only recently allowed women to even apply for all roles, it seems unlikely that affirmative action is on its way any time soon.

 

“If the British military actually wanted to include a female perspective, they wouldn’t be using media campaigns – they would be adopting targeted internal policies such as quotas for high ranking positions.”

However, even if there was a large minority of women in the higher ranks of the military, recent research suggests that this would not actually guarantee the progression of women’s interests. While some studies show that increased female representation will lead to more gender-sensitive policies when over 30% of decision-makers are women, other studies have shown the opposite to be true. Increased representation sometimes hinders women’s interest; while a small number of women may be accepted within an establishment, a large minority can be perceived as a threat to male dominance and thus face a negative response. This kind of backlash could be of particular concern in the military, where there is a long history of male dominance and ongoing issues of discrimination and abuse against women.

 

A lack of understanding of civilian women in war is another reason why female participation in the army might not be effective in bringing about change. The reason female representation at the top can sometimes advance the position of women more broadly is not that every woman is necessarily committed to feminism – but because female leaders often have shared experiences with their female subordinates, and can understand and empathise with what it means to be a woman in their institution. However, servicewomen in the British Army are unlikely to have experienced the gendered impacts of war or understand the experiences of female civilians in conflict. Furthermore, the disproportionate effects of conflict on women are often indirect and may not be witnessed first-hand by foreign soldiers. Because of this, increased female participation might lead to some advancements in the internal workings of the military, but is unlikely to make war safer for female civilians, the most vulnerable group in this context.

 

British Army 2020 recruitment Campaign Women Confidence

British Army recruitment campaign targeting women (Ministry of Defence, 2020)

Overall, the British military pushing for female recruits could lead to improvements for servicewomen at some undefined point in the future. However, these benefits are ultimately uncertain and indirect. Unfortunately, the harms of this kind of campaigning are more concrete. When the British Army uses feminist rhetoric to sell militarism, it is intended to sanitize their public image and make war seem more palatable to those who value women’s rights. This situation can be described as “woke-washing”, and serves to drown out concerns about the oppressive impact of militarism on female civilians. In practice, this means that the lived experiences of marginalised women are shoved to one side, while images of the military as a driving force for empowerment circulates mainstream media. This situation could make people being less likely to fight for justice because there has been the illusion of progress but no meaningful change. From the army’s perspective, if they can reap the benefits of being perceived as feminist either way, there is no incentive to acknowledge women’s rights abuses in the past or to work towards change in the future. These damages exist even if the military is unsuccessful in recruiting more women because the affiliation of the army with feminist talking-points is powerful in of itself.

 

“Prioritizing the individual ambitions of white women over the collective needs of women of colour is a defining feature of “white feminism”, and yet another issue with the military co-opting feminist language”

On the other hand, if this kind of campaigning does attract more women, it means that the army can expand its reach and power. If history is anything to go by, this looks like a greater capacity for unnecessary military interventions that disrupt civilian lives and perpetuate gendered violence. It is of course true that some women may find military service empowering and want the chance increase to improving conditions for servicewomen. While everyone should be free to choose their career path, praising these cases as a win for feminism is misguided. An increase in female recruits could someday benefit the predominantly white population of British servicewomen, but these gains would ultimately rely on an institution that oppresses and kills women of colour. This is particularly problematic given that servicewomen choose to be in the army, while civilian women don’t consent to how their lives are impacted by military intervention. Prioritizing the individual ambitions of white women over the collective needs of women of colour is a defining feature of “white feminism”, and yet another issue with the military co-opting feminist language.

 

For as long as civilians shoulder the cost of imperialism, and empty rhetoric is used in place of real change, the military will continue to be a patriarchal force. As feminists, this is not a system we should strive to participate in or strengthen, but rather something we should refuse to accept. Whether it is in the ballot box, in the streets or in the media, feminist action needs to incorporate an anti-war perspective and raise the voices of civilian women in conflict throughout the world.

 

Check out part one and part two of Aoife’s ‘Women and the Military’ series. 

 

 

Featured photo by Wallpaper Flare