Gender in Security Roundup

Sexual Harassment in the US Military

Last Wednesday, the US Department of Defense released its first annual sexual harassment report (PDF with my annotations). Understanding sexual harassment is critical to preventing sexual assault because the two behaviors, though distinct, are intimately connected. A 2012 DoD study found that 30 percent of women and 19 percent of men who were sexually assaulted reported that their attacker sexually harassed them before or after the assault (PDF). In the sexual harassment report, repeat offenders account for 11% of complaints. Upon investigation, sufficient evidence was found to substantiate 72% of these repeat offenses.

The most striking finding is that the report overwhelmingly implicates male non-commissioned officers and senior non-commissioned officers in sexual harassment of female junior enlisted servicemembers. In formal complaints, 95.5% of offenders were male and 52.5% were in paygrades E-5 to E-9 (equivalent to sergeant to sergeant major in the Marine Corps). Paygrades E-1 to E-4 (private to corporal in the Marine Corps) clocked in a distant second at 23.2% of offenders. In contrast, 87% of complainants were female and 62.7% were in paygrades E-1 to E-4. This is what institutionalized sexism looks like.

My only other remark on the report is that the four military branches have been allowed to retain their own reporting and categorization systems for sexual harassment. DoD claims that the report is a baseline for comparing sexual harassment rates in future years but without a standardized DoD-wide reporting policy, this report provides us with an extremely flawed baseline that doesn’t allow for valid interservice or cross-year comparisons.

Canadian Armed Forces

I recently wrote a guest blog for Carrying the Gun on the Canadian Armed Forces (CF)’ remarkably sophisticated gender-neutral occupational standards. These standards were devised following a judgment of the Canadian Human Rights Commission that the CF must integrate women into their combat arms while ensuring that all military occupational standards are based on bona fide occupational requirements.

In accordance with the Employment Equity Act, the CF are required to meet quotas for minority representation in the force. These quotas are quite ambitious: 25.1 per cent of full-time military personnel and reservists should be female; 11.7 per cent should be “visible minorities,” and 3.3 per cent should be Aboriginal Peoples  (i.e., native Canadians). However, despite concerted recruiting efforts, women comprise just 15% of the CF. The Ottawa Citizen reports that the CF are mulling their options in light of their persistent failure to meet the quota.

The Canadian Defence Department, pointing to internal studies, is reportedly considering whether to request reduced quotas of 17.6 per cent for women, 8.2 per cent for visible minorities, and 2.6 per cent for Aboriginal Peoples. Since there appears to be considerable political opposition to such a reduction, CF leaders have little choice but to double down on outreach and recruiting. Writing to his subordinate commanders, Canadian Chief of Military Personnel Maj-Gen David Millar warns of the consequences: 

“If reasonable progress towards these goals is not deemed to have been made, the (Canadian Human Rights Commission) auditors can potentially impose conditions upon the (Canadian Forces) to comply with recruitment of (women, visible minorities and aboriginals) over a timeline and in a manner which would unduly stress our organization.”

This ominous-sounding note suggests to me that Maj-Gen Millar feels the heavy hand of true human rights oversight, so yay for the Canadian government.

Kansas University’s First Female Ground Combat Officer

Female ROTC cadet Madeline Wilcox is set to graduate from Kansas University and enter the US Army as a field artillery officer. Since the Army recently opened virtually all field artillery positions to women, Madeline will be KU’s first female ROTC graduate who can serve in a unit that directly engages in ground combat. Congrats to her.

Hooters Announces Its Intention to Profit from National Observation of Our War Dead by Objectifying Women and The Military in General

We’re supposed to take this for a news article but it’s obviously sponsored content from Hooters of America.

Veterans Day, Hooters. That’s the day when it’s logical to objectify women and the military for profit. Still a blight on our cultural landscape, but at least not profiting from death itself.

US Reaffirms Its Rejection of International Human Rights Law Overseas

I wrote previously that the United States was expected to reject the applicability of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to non-US territories under its effective control (as in the case of Iraq during US occupation). As expected, the US government upheld this interpretation before a meeting of the UN Human Rights Committee. The Committee expressed its “regret” with this interpretation, with the Committee Chair concluding thus:

The provisions of the Covenant were rather clear on the fact that it applied to both people in the territory and people under the jurisdiction of the State Party, and this was the most common interpretation.  It was worrying that the United States presented such an example to the international community.

Marko Milanovic has a good summary of the ultimately futile efforts of Harold Koh, former Legal Advisor to the US State Department, to shift US policy toward a more legally tenable interpretation of the treaty’s application.

U.S. Protects the Global Community from Its Extraterritorial Observance of Their Human Rights

Charlie Savage reports that the US government is likely to deny the applicability of two treaties; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture, to persons outside the US who are under US control. Apparently, human rights lawyers in the State Department lost an internal battle against military and intelligence lawyers over the most accurate interpretation of the treaty:

Matthew Waxman, a Columbia professor who was a top detainee policy official for the Bush administration, said military and intelligence agencies had been skeptical of taking that step because they worried about potentially complicating their overseas operations.

John Bellinger, the top State Department lawyer in the Bush administration, noted that the presentation comes in the midst of a furor over National Security Agency surveillance. The rights treaty also bars “arbitrary or unlawful interference” with privacy, although it is not clear that it requires parties to respect rights of foreigners not in its custody.

“This is a particularly sensitive time because of the N.S.A. controversy,” he said. “I cannot imagine the U.S. government would change its position, even if it were previously tempted to.”

I’m reminded of a panel discussion on US drone strikes that I participated in at Columbia.

A political science professor (not the one quoted above) on the panel argued that the US shouldn’t be accountable to international law under the International Criminal Court because the US would be obstructed from exercising global leadership as a result.

This case is slightly different since human rights violations don’t fall under the purview of the ICC, but the parallels are there. I’d think the layman might be forgiven for concluding that the present form of global leadership bears a very uncanny resemblance to looking out for Number One.

Why is Rape Common in War? Ctd

Kim Murphy considers the notion that Victorian gender norms prevented rape in the US Civil War:

Historians, Murphy says, largely had the idea that the Victorian era was characterized by restraint, and therefore there was little rape. For example, she mentions a passage from Reid Mitchell’s book, The Vacant Chair: The Northern Soldier Leaves Home, which reads:

“Few northern soldiers raped…True manhood was characterized by sexual restraint not sexual assertion; even mutually agreeable intercourse would have threatened masculine identity. Letting anger toward women break out in unsanctioned violence against women would have been unmanly.”

“There were 109,397 cases of gonorrhea, and 73,382 cases of syphilis—and that’s just among the U.S. white troops; we don’t have the records for the Confederacy,” Murphy says. “Quite frankly, that doesn’t suggest restraint.”

Murphy thinks the Civil War rapes were largely crimes of opportunity:

[Read more…]

Good Human Rights News From Morocco

Morocco has amended its penal code to remove a loophole that protected men from prison sentences for statutory rape if they married their victim:

Article 475 provides for a prison term of one to five years for anyone who “abducts or deceives” a minor “without violence, threat or fraud, or attempts to do so”.

But the second clause of the article specifies that when the victim marries the perpetrator, “he can no longer be prosecuted except by persons empowered to demand the annulment of the marriage and then only after the annulment has been proclaimed”. This effectively prevents prosecutors from independently pursuing rape charges.

This of course is only the beginning of steps necessary to end gender-based violence and bring gender equality:

In conservative rural parts of Morocco, an unmarried girl or woman who has lost her virginity – even through rape – is considered to have dishonoured her family and no longer suitable for marriage. Some families believe that marrying the rapist addresses these problems.

While welcoming the move, rights groups say that much still needs to be done to promote gender equality, protect women and outlaw child marriage in the North African country.

“It’s a very important step. But it’s not enough,” Fatima Maghnaoui, who heads a group supporting women victims of violence, told the AFP news agency.

“We are campaigning for a complete overhaul of the penal code for women.”

Why Is Rape Common in War?

Chapter six of Josh Goldstein’s War and Gender contains a large section on rape in war, which got me thinking about my tours in Iraq.

The US occupation of Iraq saw its share of war crimes. However, as far as I can tell, rape as a war crime seemed to be virtually absent. (This case of premeditated rape and murder in Mahmudiyah seems to be an exception).

That’s interesting in its own right. But what really sparked my curiosity was the emphasis on rape as a weapon of war in my human rights and humanitarian affairs classes in grad school. More than one instructor or guest speaker treated the prevalence of rape in war as a given. This struck me as odd: I didn’t see the military utility in rape–after all, the military goal is victory over one’s enemy, which is best achieved by killing or threatening to kill the opposing armed force. One instructor seemed quite put off when I asked her to explain why rape was so common in contemporary conflicts.

War objectives seem to be the bulk of the answer. Systematic rape makes more sense as a method of ethnic cleansing (either by breeding out an unwanted ethnicity or by destroying a society’s will to remain in its rightful home) than it does as a method of defeating an enemy army.

But even this fails to explain why there weren’t more rapes of opportunity (that I was aware of) in Iraq. This probably had to do with the relative discipline of the US military, the omnipresence of command supervision, and the lack of safe havens outside of US military compounds. Servicemembers would rarely have had the opportunity outside the wire to rape locals unless their unit was in complicity.

Then it occurred to me that, given the lack of opportunity outside the wire, it was far easier to rape inside the wire–against fellow servicemembers. I lacked the frame of reference to pick up on this right away because as a man in the military, rape wasn’t a daily consideration for me (although most sexual assault victims in the US military are male, women are disproportionally targeted).

On an unrelated note, I’m more than halfway through Judith Hand’s Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace. Although Hand is a Ph.D. in biology from UCLA in animal behavior and primatology, the first half of her book doesn’t take a very rigorous scientific approach to the biology of war. But I’ll reserve my final judgment until I read the second half.

If Infantry Culture Precludes Integration, Just Change It

Credit: 9GAG

Credit: 9GAG

I found this picture on a clickbait site. It’s a joke poster, meant to be hung up in a bar, but I think it really speaks to the cultural origins of behavior. I was struck by the idea that one could mix and match the best (or worst) aspects of various national cultures as if from a menu.

The question was, how can I turn this into a blog post? So I decided to make a point about military culture and integration of women into the infantry.

A few members of my old Marine infantry unit recently made it clear that they view behavioral trends as inborn, with women inherently unfit for infantry service and men inherently unfit to share intimate spaces with them. But there is nothing about the way Brits are born that makes them good policemen and poor chefs. These are simply the logical consequences of the norms emphasized in British culture. This culture is handed from one generation to the next with perpetual modification. If American servicemembers aren’t currently fit to fight in integrated units, they can be indoctrinated into a suitable culture.

Just because culture is malleable does not mean that it is infinitely flexible. Deeply ingrained values tend to die hard. But military basic training is specifically designed to break down deeply ingrained civilian norms and replace them with military norms that are counterintuitive to most recruits. It is instantly clear to anyone who spends time around US servicemembers that this indoctrination is highly effective. Given a generation or two, the military can swap out some of its norms for others that facilitate integration.

Not only is it possible to create a military culture that facilitates integration of the infantry, it has already been done in several states. Carrying the Gun recently featured a guest post from Soren Sjogren, a Danish infantry officer, on how gender-egalitarian values inform his leadership of an integrated infantry unit:

Never accept sexism

Words have the power to move and to transform us. Never use nor allow language that implies negativity related to gender. An innocent joke about women’s lack of ability to do something or implying that it is OK to use gender as an explanation is the first step down the wrong path.

Do not go there yourself, and strike down hard on any approach to sexism.

Allow women to be women

There is no such thing as a stereotypical infantry soldier. Dark, light, big or small – the only thing that matters is that you are able to do the job. You do not need to transform women and make them more ‘manly’ in order to serve.

Allow them to be women as long as they do their job. Just as you allow the rest of your soldiers to be the individuals they are.

The notion that it is self-evidently impossible to integrate the infantry is plainly incorrect.

%d bloggers like this: