The UN special envoy Angelina Jolie speaking at the summit. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The End Sexual Violence in Conflict summit is a chance to stop the female body being a battleground

International humanitarian law needs to include serious redress for those using rape as a method of conflict.

Rape is one of the most destructive weapons of armed conflict. This is due, in part, to its capacity to demoralise a conquered group. Rape, or the threat of rape, can lead to population displacement, causing people to flee countries to avoid the sexual violence that military invasion can bring. Rape also generates shame and trauma, which can prevent marriages from occurring, bring about divorce, compel women to abandon or kill any children that are the products of rape, divide families and destroy the very foundations upon which human culture is based and maintained. Nor are such crimes confined to sexual offences: other forms of violence include feticide if the victim is pregnant, which can also result in death. 

Rape during war also serves as a form of social control that can suppress efforts to mobilise resistance among a conquered group. In such cases, rape is often committed in front of relatives and family members; the victims are abused, killed, and left on public display as a reminder to others to submit to and comply with invasion policies. It is evident that women are targeted in war because of their gender, because they are part of a particular racial/ethnic group or because they are perceived by the enemy as political conspirators or enemy combatants.

Within this context, it is clear that rape in war acts as a vehicle for deep-seated hatreds: racism, classism, and xenophobia are expressed towards the enemy group and actualised through the mass abuse of its women. In war the female body becomes the symbolic battleground upon which age-old cultural and geopolitical differences are acted out, and where new forms of hatred are implanted that fuel a desire for revenge in the future. The psychological, social, cultural, ethical and medical consequences of rape in war are devastating. Yet rape in war continues without any serious form of redress under international humanitarian law.

The End Sexual Violence in Conflict Summit that I am attending this week in London this week highlights that recent innovative international jurisprudence decisions in relation to rape have important implications for how rape is conceptualised and treated within domestic and international law. The Global Summit is an opportunity for world leaders around the world to act - to go beyond talking the talk to eliminate this gendered form of violence. #TimetoAct!

Dr Aisha K Gill is an Associate Professor in Criminology at the University of Roehampton. She is on Twitter @DrAishaKGill

Dr Aisha K Gill is a Reader in Criminology at University of Roehampton.

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

David Cameron’s starter homes: poor policy, but good politics

David Cameron's electoral coalition of buy-to-let retirees and dual-earner couples remains intact: for now.

The only working age demographic to do better under the Coalition was dual-earner couples – without children. They were the main beneficiaries of the threshold raise – which may “take the poorest out of tax” in theory but in practice hands a sizeable tax cut to peope earning above average. They will reap the fruits of the government’s Help to Buy ISAs. And, not having children, they were insulated from cuts to child tax credits, reductions in public services, and the rising cost of childcare. (Childcare costs now mean a couple on average income, working full-time, find that the extra earnings from both remaining in work are wiped out by the costs of care)

And they were a vital part of the Conservatives’ electoral coalition. Voters who lived in new housing estates on the edges of seats like Amber Valley and throughout the Midlands overwhelmingly backed the Conservatives.

That’s the political backdrop to David Cameron’s announcement later today to change planning to unlock new housing units – what the government dubs “Starter Homes”. The government will redefine “affordable housing”  to up to £250,000 outside of London and £450,000 and under within it, while reducing the ability of councils to insist on certain types of buildings. He’ll describe it as part of the drive to make the next ten years “the turnaround decade”: years in which people will feel more in control of their lives, more affluent, and more successful.

The end result: a proliferation of one and two bedroom flats and homes, available to the highly-paid: and to that vital component of Cameron’s coalition: the dual-earner, childless couple, particularly in the Midlands, where the housing market is not yet in a state of crisis. (And it's not bad for that other pillar of the Conservative majority: well-heeled pensioners using buy-to-let as a pension plan.)

The policy may well be junk-rated but the politics has a triple A rating: along with affluent retirees, if the Conservatives can keep those dual-earner couples in the Tory column, they will remain in office for the forseeable future.

Just one problem, really: what happens if they decide they want room for kids? Cameron’s “turnaround decade” might end up in entirely the wrong sort of turnaround for Conservative prospects.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.