Women Always Lose In War — That’s Why They Can Help End Them

Negotiators working to end Colombia's decades-long civil war are seeing women as a critical component of lasting social and political peace.

A 2008 protest in Colombia calling for the release of FARC kidnapping victims
A 2008 protest in Colombia calling for the release of FARC kidnapping victims
Farid Kahhat


LIMA â€" Most people know about the peace talks between Colombia’s government and the insurgent Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which are expected to end the country's decades-long civil war.

But few know about the focus on gender in these talks.

One government negotiator, María Paulina Riveros, observed it was necessary to give particular attention to women because they were suffering "specifically and disproportionately the effects of the conflict." Research has already shown that not all parts of a society suffer an armed conflict in the same manner. Some groups suffer more than others.

Young men, for example, are more inclined to take up arms and face a greater risk of dying in extra-judicial executions. In turn, they also benefit from conflict, as young men are rewarded both socially and politically for bearing arms. Fighting also gives them privileged access to economic resources.

María Paulina Riveros â€" Photo: Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos

In a war, women are far more likely to become victims of crimes like sexual violence and trafficking. During periods of conflict, raping women is often a strategy to access territories or resources.

Levels of poverty among women rise 30% in countries embroiled in conflict, according to a study sponsored by the World Bank. Poorer countries are, of course, more likely to suffer conflict, which feeds a vicious cycle. Another World Bank study finds that political violence is becoming the first cause of poverty as an increasing number of countries get caught in recurring cycles of political unrest. Some 90% of the countries that suffered civil wars between 2000 and 2011 had gone through a civil war in the preceding three decades.

Recent research suggests that including the wartime experiences of women, though not those few on the front lines, can help in both preventing and resolving armed conflicts.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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