Lauren Wolfe – When does the violation of women’s bodies become a “red line”?

If people divide their understanding of militarized violence into normal and not normal, acceptable and not acceptable, it makes a terrible kind of sense: violence against women has been “normalized”.

Two years ago I was on vacation in Maine when I started getting really, really mad. I’d been working to track sexualized violence in the Syrian war for a long time and had gotten very little response from policy makers despite many meetings with those in our government and the UK’s and at the UN. Cases piled up, and response remained nil. And now suddenly President Obama was responding—but not to cases of rape, or torture, but to the possible use of chemical weapons. It was his so-called “red line”—the thing that would make him do something.

Much of the world long ago decided that chemical weapons were an abhorrent thing to unleash in war. More than 160 countries signed a treaty attesting to this. And I am in no way disputing that this is not a massive, massive human rights violation. But it got me thinking—why is that the red line? When does the violation of women’s bodies become a “red line”? How many cases does it take? I’m not talking about random acts of violence, I’m talking about sexualized violence being carried out by armed forces under the control of a government or militia.

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