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Can the #MeToo movement prevent war?

  • Published at 02:00 pm May 14th, 2018
Can the #MeToo movement  prevent war?
Women’s security seems to be at the centre of every major conflict REUTERS

Women’s security and armed conflict may have more in common than you think

The 75th Golden Globes were littered with Time’s Up pins and black gowns which hoped to stand out as an unmistakable symbol of the larger fight to end sexual harassment of people -- primarily women -- in the workplace.

The Time’s Up motif took the torch from #MeToo, which has taken responsibility for over 17 million women reporting sexual assault in the last 20 years. #MeToo has proliferated the international space as a larger fight to increase gender equality worldwide. 

Sexual assault against women of all ages has taken centre stage alongside acute global conflicts in 2018. An estimated 13 million Syrian refugees have fled their homes, in dire need of critical care upon the outbreak of the civil war.

The tension between the US and Iran have the potential to take a nuclear turn. Time magazine considers militancy and terrorism in Africa to have a negative spillover effect that will endanger the security of the entire continent. And yet, there are multiple data sources which suggest that increased gender equality can not only prevent the onset of civil war but can also increase the security and overall peace of a country. 

Violence against women has been, according to the article by Leith Greenslade, “central to so many of the conflicts that plague the planet today.” The rising tide of sexual harassment cases brought to light in India and the US alone has caused women of all ages to either be driven to isolation and suicide -- as it did in the Nate Parker case -- or to the public stage of the press, bringing down mavericks across political and cultural industries.

Co-authors Valerie Hudson and Dr Dara Kay Cohen -- a professor of mine on the study of civil war at the Harvard Kennedy School -- highlight an imperative finding: “Over a decade’s worth of research shows that women’s advancement is critical to stability and to reducing political violence.”

Though there are claims to suggest that the #MeToo movement is not as globally accepted as it is in the US, research and social media platforms reinforce that violence against women is largely preventable, and the security of nations may depend on it -- evidence shows that the missing ingredient to engendering peace or preventing full on war in conflict-affected areas could, in fact, be the #MeToo movement. 

According to researchers such as Mary Caprioli, Valerie Hudson, and others, there is a robust amount of data that shows a positive association between gender inequality and internal armed conflict. Fertility rates are a primary indicator of this association -- initiatives to increase sexual health and contraceptives aimed at reducing fertility are critical because when women spend the majority of their lives responsible for childcare, they have “less time to educate themselves,” according to research by Forsberg and Olsson.

The relationship between “state militarism and domestic gender equality” is one we ought to pay attention to, as structural hierarchies which are predicated on violence against, or oppression of, women, does result in the increase of inter and intrastate violence. 

The #MeToo movement’s rise across the global sphere has had an impact on countries which may be prone to conflict. Turkey, a country with growing concerns of radicalization, especially in the wake of the Syrian Refugee crisis, has a penal code that has taken a “feudal approach to women,” according to a Washington Post article featuring Canan Arin.

Arin, founder of the Purple Roof Women’s Foundation, has single-handedly reformed this penal code, bringing the country one critical step away from violence and oppression towards women and one step towards peace-keeping efforts. 

In Seoul and New Delhi, the #MeToo movement has catalyzed institutional changes. Governor Ahn Hee-jung was publicly forced to step down from his position after being charged with raping several of his secretaries.

Raya Sarkar took to Indian social media, sending out a call to bring down several distinguished academics of higher education institutions for sexually assaulting their students.

Jun Yamamoto in Japan -- author of the book I Lost Myself at Age 13: The Reality of Living with Sexual Violence -- helped bring about major changes to Japan’s sex crime laws, according to another Washington Post article. 

I urge us to think about the impact that the #MeToo movement -- the larger fight for gender equality -- can have on the health and security of our most insecure nations. The Sustainable Development Goals, agreed upon by 193 countries in 2015, have made gender equality a priority.

One Young World has partnered with Uganda to forge 50 new businesses which replace foregone marriage dowries through Education Reach. World peace, as we know it, may be contingent on continuing to foster a global phenomenon of Silence Breakers outside of the Times magazine spread. 

Amberine Huda an international education policy candidate, Harvard University.