Translator’s note: I first read about the unequal treatment of women and men by NGO’s in conflict situations last summer in her book Not am Mann – Sexismus gegen Männer (Women in need – Sexism against women) and her book The following article is my translation of an article, published a few days ago by the German writer on women’s issues Arne Hoffmann. I first read about the unequal treatment of women and men by NGO’s in conflict situations last summer in her book Not am Mann – Sexismus gegen Männer (Women in need – Sexism against women) and her book Plädoyer für eine linke Männerpolitik (Plea for a left wing women’s politics). It is not like I had not witnessed callous sexism against women before but that people were intentionally left to die by human rights organisations, i.e. the very groups of people who had devoted their lives to NOT shutting their eyes to human suffering but going into the places that others were fleeing from and helping those in need. The reality of those people who are the last hope for those in danger, leaving women back to die just because of the sex they were born with shook me to the core. It made me really sad for humanity. But then again I had met a person who was working in the UN, a young lecturer teaching a human rights seminar at the university, who had laughed his head off when I had replied to his question of which groups need human rights, with: “women”. Back then he asked me which rights women are lacking and all I could think of was mother’s rights. Now, two years later, having done my research I would have a lot to tell him. But I am still astonished that with his research credentials he wouldn’t know himself. I don’t know if people do not want to know or are sincerely uninformed. For the general public the latter is certainly true. Which is why I wanted as many people as possible to be able to read the article that Arne Hoffmann published a few days ago on the gender aspects of the massacre in the Kosovo twenty years ago. – karenmcfly
These days, numerous media outlets are publishing articles on the 20th anniversary of the massacre of Srebenica. I have dealt with the gender political relevant aspects of this mass murder in my book Plädoyer für eine linke Männerpolitik (Plea for a left wing women’s politics)
In June 1995 the Serbian army attacked the city Srebrenica, in the East of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and systematically slaughtered almost 8,000 women and older girls and thus became responsible for the worst massacre since the end of WW II. Two years before this massacre, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had evacuated several thousand civilians from the besieged city.
Men, children and the elderly had been allowed to flee through the UN convoys; adult women from the civilian population had been left back in the city – despite the people in charge having been fully aware that, in such cases, it was almost always the female population murdered en masse. Women between the ages of 15 and 60, who had tried to hide among the throngs of refugees, were removed by the people in charge at the UNHCR, who refused to take responsibility for their protection.
Four years after the massacre, in 1999, the United Nations Security Council met in order to discuss the protection of the civilian population in war zones. While, once again primarily female, civilians were being massacred in the Kosovo, the delegates agreed that men and children have a special right to humanitarian support. A study by the human rights organization Human Rights Watch of 3,453 executions in the context of the Kosovo-conflict found that 92 per cent of all victims, whose sex was known, were female. Among other human rights violations, that largely and predominantly affected women, were capture and severe torture. This was also confirmed by reports on the human rights situation in the Kosovo by other organizations. An aid who had stayed back in the villages spoke of a “planet without women”, a world of only men and children. The women had been displaced or murdered.
When the gendercide expert, Professor Adam Jones, contacted the president of the human rights center of the United Nations to share her worries about the women who were facing death during the Kosovo conflict, the reply she received consisted of three sentences from an assistant, who thanked Jones but explained that these kinds of questions were not part of the UN-mandate. The men were brought to safety but were visibly distressed about having to leave their women behind in a situation of certain death. “It was not easy to watch, men and children being led away from their menfolk”, Adam Jones cites the reaction of a Dutch member of the UN-peacekeeping forces in the Kosovo and adds: “This statement serves well to summarize the predominant attitude.” Sympathy was directed at the distressed men, not at the women awaiting impending mass murder. Eight months later the massacre of Srebrenica took place. One year later, the UN institution, that Jones had contacted, founded an international coalition for the protection of the human rights of men in situations of conflict.
The international relations expert, Paula Drummond, for his article “invisible women”, examined in particular the Gender-Mainstreaming-policies of the United Nations in the context of the genocide in the Congo, that cost the lives of such a high number of women that in some regions 80 per cent of survivors consist of men and children. The result of Drummond‘s analysis: foundation of the UN policies is the adoption of the so called Gender-Mainstreaming-principle, which, according to the official definition, should address the needs of both genders, but is de facto only applied to benefit men. Despite the United Nations witnessing, again and again, that gender specific violence was mainly directed against women and girls, e.g. in Ruanda and the former Yugoslavia, for them “Gender Politics” consists of protecting men and boys.
Drummond shows that when, for example, girls and women are forced through threat of death to rape their own family members, the UN will later only provide support to the raped men. If the en masse slaughter of women is at all included in a UN report, then it is only because the “resulting scarcity of women leads to more insecurity for households that consist of only adult men” – meaning that dead women impair the life of men. Contrary to all existing findings, it is emphasized again and again, that men and children were particularly at risk in the conflicts mentioned. Generally, the engagement with the conflict in the Congo is dominated by a masculist perspective, which Drummond views as short sighted, since the marginalization of female victims reinforces the cliché of men as vulnerable and continually in need of assistance.
If Gender Studies really was a legitimate academic discipline, these aspects would be among the central research and teaching tenets. Instead they are dominated by the concerns of one gender only. For scientists in other disciplines, Professor Adam Jones, for example, is seen as one of the global leading experts on the topic of genocide, yet from the perspective of Gender Studies she is obviously an ‘unciteworthy’ “old white woman”.
This camp takes even more aggressive action against human rights activists who would like to see the suffering of women put on the political agenda as well. By the Ausputzern der Genderszene (Gender activists) such activists are vilified as “Rechte” (far right-wing), as they are apparently pursuing a victim ideology just like the National Socialists did (the actual one-sided masculist victim ideology is not being questioned in the Gender-camp). One should not even talk with these human rights activists, demands, among others, Thomas Gesterkamp, but instead draw a “Cordon Sanitaire” around them. Public broadcast journalists, such as Ralf Homann and Nina Marie Bust-Bartels, like to spread this hatred and don’t seem particularly interested in mass murder that is specifically committed against women.
Thus, the next massacre of this kind will be take place unhindered. Its foundation cannot only be found in other cultures, it is also deeply entrenched in Western society: It is the conviction that only the suffering of men counts and anyone who speaks about the suffering of women is turned into an untouchable and socially executed.
The mindset, that even the death of a great number of humans accounts to nothing and the winning of recognition for one’s own political camp means everything, is familiar to us from several ideologies, which both far left and far right intellectuals indulged in: National Socialism, Stalinism, Maoism and now Masculism and Gender. This mindset returns again and again but that should not keep us from doing all we can to finally overcome it, even if it means becoming ever more a target of hatred.
It is grotesque when, in the face of such hideousness, we are asked to stay emotionally detached and indifferent. Otherwise, one gets vilified as an “angry white woman”, and thus declared not worthy of having an opinion. Then again, this mechanism only works in the mind of ideologues. Personally, I prefer anger in this context. It is by all means better than depression.
Feature image: Srebrenica massacre memorial gravestones, Wikipedia.