Saturday, March 22, 2014

The War on Women

I recently visited one of the Middle schools in town. I discovered that the school day still begins with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance ” . . . with Liberty and Justice for All.” But that is political propaganda. For half the students, the girls, the prospect for liberty and justice is pretty dim. Not only is their liberty seriously restricted by the epidemic of rapes, of other sexual assaults and harassment, but their hope for justice is dim as long as our legislators are unwilling to stand up for them.
This thought is prompted by a random collection of news stories in the last few weeks.
The Army is investigating sexual abuse allegations against an officer who trains military prosecutors who handle sexual and physical abuse cases, a defense official said Thursday.
Once a rising star among the US army’s top battle commanders, Brigadier General Jeffrey A Sinclair is now fighting sexual assault charges that could land him life in a military prison if convicted. The general who faced serious prison time was let off with plea deal.
Pentagon officials announced in May that sexual assault incidents have increased by 35 percent between 2010 and 2012, bringing the annual total to 26,000 cases of some type of unwanted sexual contact or sexual assault last year. The results came via an anonymous survey.
Active-duty female personnel make up roughly 14.5 percent -- or 207,308 members -- of the more than 1.4 million Armed Forces, according to the Department of Defense. One in three military women has been sexually assaulted, compared to one in six civilian women, according to Defense. According to calculations by The Huffington Post, a servicewoman was nearly 180 times more likely to have become a victim of military sexual assault (MSA) in the past year than to have died while deployed during the last 11 years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, a pilot who was also the inspector general of the 31stFighter Wing at Aviano Air Base in Italy, was found guilty of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to one year in military prison in November. His charges included “abusive sexual contact, aggravated sexual assault and three instances of conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman,” the Air Force Times reported.
But last month, Lt. Gen. Craig A. Franklin, commander of the Third Air Force base, dismissed the sexual assault conviction – even though there was plenty of evidence of the defendant’s guilt. On Feb. 26, the case was dismissed and Franklin even recommended Wilkerson for a promotion, the New York Times reported.
Nor is this an exclusively North-American phenomenon.
Violence against women is "an extensive human rights abuse" across Europe with one in three women reporting some form of physical or sexual abuse since the age of 15 and 8% suffering abuse in the last 12 months, according to the largest survey of its kind on the issue.
Horrifying gang-rapes in India have been in the news repeatedly in recent months.
Not only is women's freedom seriously restricted by the ubiquitous threat of sexual assault, but their hope of receiving justice is dim. Existing legislatures are unwilling to see that justice be accessible to all, even women.
The case of Lt.-Col. Wilkerson whose conviction of sexual assault was overturned by his commanding officer, prompted legislation in Congress to exclude commanding officers from getting involved in sexual assault complaints. That piece of legislation, intended to provide a bit of justice for women victimized, recently failed to pass the US Senate.
The Texas legislature adopted new restrictions on abortions. There were 44 facilities that performed abortions in Texas in 2011, abortion providers said. There are now 24, they said. When the law is fully implemented in September, that number is expected to drop to six.
While it is customary to praise the heterosexual family as the cornerstone of our society, the prevalence of violence in families is being overlooked.
• In 2008 females age 12 or older experienced about 552,000 nonfatal violent victimizations (rape/sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated or simple assault) by an intimate partner (a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend).
• In the same year, men experienced 101,000 nonfatal violent victimizations by an intimate partner.
• The rate of intimate partner victimizations for female s was 4.3 victimizations per 1,000 females age 12 or older. The equivalent rate of intimate partner violence against males was 0.8 victimizations per 1,000 males age 12 or older.
            Is it not time to get serious about liberty and justice for all?