In Pakistan and US women remain targets

Two articles appeared on CNN this morning. One details a horrific attack on female university students in Pakistan. The other discusses the fact that women are now choosing not to join the US military due to the rampant sexual abuse that has gone unchecked. Both stories clearly illustrate that women continue to be intimidated in order to prevent them from making significant gains.

The Pakistan story details the lengths militants will go to in their quest to prevent women from obtaining education. Not only did they attack the bus that the female university students were traveling on, they also attacked the hospital where survivors were taken. At least 14 women were killed in the bus attack, which was carried out by a female suicide bomber: “‘All the (bus) victims are women teachers and students,’ said Mir Zubair Mehmood, a police official in Quetta. The blast shattered the windows of offices and classrooms inside Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University” (CNN). 28 people were killed at the hospital: “The gunmen killed four security force members, a medical administrator, and the deputy commissioner of Quetta. Four nurses died in the crossfire, police said. Two militants blew themselves up, and two more died in a shootout” (CNN). Several others were wounded in a bomb blast that occurred near the entrance to the hospital as the victims from the bus bombing were arriving (CNN). While the attacks have been condemned, the message is clear. According to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “violence against women and educators has increased in recent years. The aim being to keep girls from attaining a basic right to education” (CNN).

The second story, detailing violence against women in the US military, is no less shocking. Shabren Kurtz-Russ, a recent graduate, wanted to follow in the footsteps of both her mother and father, who had served in the Army, by enlisting in the Army National Reserve. She felt she was upholding a family tradition, and making a solid decision for her future. When both of her parents strongly opposed her choice, she dug deeper and uncovered an ugly secret; her mother had been gang raped in the Army in 1985, and Army personnel had thwarted any efforts she made to press criminal charges at the time of the attack (CNN).

Even one of the military’s strongest proponents, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), recently voiced his concerns regarding women entering the military: “Just last night a woman came to me and said her daughter wanted to join the military and could I give my unqualified support for her doing so. I could not. I cannot overstate my disgust and disappointment over the continued reports of sexual misconduct in our military” (CNN).

The proposed answer in both of these stories seems to be to keep women out–out of education and out of the military–which is just what the perpetrators of violence want. That is their goal. If women accept this proposed solution, they will never make gains against the patriarchy entrenched in these institutions and in society. Instead, more needs to be done at the governmental level to ensure that women can attend school without the fear of being blown up, and can enter and serve in the US military without the fear that they will be gang raped by their colleagues. This doesn’t seem like too much to ask. The governments of these nations need to move beyond words to action, and they need to act now.

Diane DeBella

As a writer, teacher, and speaker Diane has spent over twenty years examining women’s issues. She is the author of the collective memoir *I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths to Reclaim Our Selves*, and editor of the anthology *I Am Subject Stories: Women Awakening*. As a long-time faculty member at the University of Colorado, she received the CU Women Who Make a Difference Award and the CU-LEAD Alliance Faculty Appreciation Award. Through her organization I Am Subject, Diane helps us understand how we—as women—are impacted by the society in which we live. By claiming ourselves as subjects of our own lives, we become empowered and also provide strong role models for other women and girls. In healing ourselves we help others—a beautiful way for women to create nurturing, supportive communities.

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