Military Sex Trafficking: Learning toward Abolition and Accountability

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A Reflective Inquiry on an International Crime 

Developed by Betty Reardon  
(Originally posted in 2013)  
  Download a pdf copy of this learning unit

Regular readers of this newsletter are aware that the Global Campaign for Peace Education and the International Institute on Peace Education were among the civil society organizations who presented the program, Avenues to Accountability on March 9, 2013, addressing military sex trafficking with a view to seeking the prosecution of the traffickers.  This program, made possible with the support of the Biosophical Institute and the hospitality of Fordham University School of Law, was the second in a series of events seeking to raise awareness and promote education and action toward the abolition of sexual slavery.

The education element of the March 9th event was built upon a screening of The Whistleblower,an account of trafficking and sexual enslavement in post-conflict Bosnia. The screening was followed by a panel that addressed the characteristics and process of these crimes and some legal possibilities to intervene in the process and to pursue criminal accountability of the perpetrators. We engage in this learning so as to inspire action to abolish trafficking and strengthen the international law that criminalizes it.

This Learning Unit

whistleblowerThe conceptual basis for this unit and the on-going learning project comprises the Statement on Military Violence against Women (still open for endorsement) as the general framework of the problem with the Palermo Protocol and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2106, as the particular relevant international norms to be applied to accountability.

We recommend that educators undertaking this reflective inquiry start with a viewing of “The Whistleblower.” After a discussion of responses to this very powerful and disturbing film, introduce information about the anti-trafficking movement and the Palermo Protocol, emphasizing its definition of trafficking. Next show the 20-minute panel presentation by Madeleine Rees (from the “Avenues to Accountability” program), noting her role as representative of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights (as played by Vanessa Redgrave) in the case depicted in the film. Rees offers further insights into the problems and some of the lost possibilities for constructive intervention in this case, outlines the process of trafficking and suggests some actions.

The Reflective Inquiry

The following queries are offered to help facilitate a collective, reflective inquiry on what Madeleine Rees and “The Whistleblower” teach us about the problem of military sex trafficking and suggest an action inquiry into some possibilities to end it and hold the perpetrators accountable.

1. Review the process of trafficking as Rees describes it, identifying scenes from the film that illustrate the various steps in the process.
1.1 Are the actions described included in the definition offered in the Palermo Protocol?
1.2 Whom would you identify as criminally responsible in each step?

2. Components of the Process: Note especially the following criminal acts as shown in the film:
2.1 Entrapment – what are the means used to ensnare the young women in the trap of sexual slavery?
2.2 Transporting – how are they delivered to the point where they are sold to the providers of sexual services to UN peacekeepers and other clients of the bar/brothels where the women are held?  How do they get their passports?  What happens to those documents?
2.3 Complicity and cooperation – what agents and individuals facilitate this transport, acquisition of documents and sale of the trafficked women?
2.4 Avoiding accountability – what are the mechanisms that protect traffickers from criminal accountability, perpetuating impunity for these crimes against women?

3.  Militarized masculinity and fundamental misogyny are catalyzed by the military security system under which peacekeeping operations are carried out. Reflect on Rees’ comments on behaviors in light of “The Statement on Military Violence against Women.”
3.1 Recall what Rees observed about the behaviors of the peacekeepers involved in the exploitation and abuse of the enslaved women.  What actions did you note in the film that reveal misogynist attitudes to and perspectives on women and gender violence?
3.2 Do you know of other situations and behaviors in which “manliness” is conflated with aggressive attitudes and actions toward women? Are any of these among the forms of military violence against women as listed in the Statement?

Education and Action for Accountability and Abolition

4.  Intervening to reverse the process, punish the criminals and abolish the crime. One of the human rights purposes of peace education is preparing citizens to act toward the achievement of gender equality and the elimination of violence against women in all its forms. (See the “Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women”) 
4.1 How might peace education address the issues of military sex trafficking and other forms of military violence against women? What groups need to be so educated? What form should education for each group take?
4.2 What might be recommended to governments to fulfill the injunctions of UNSCR 2106 to take steps to overcome impunity in cases of violence against women as it arises from armed conflict?  Should these governmental policies be extended to military violence committed outside armed conflict such as in cases of long-term military presence (i.e. many overseas bases) and post conflict (i.e. peacekeeping operations)  and disaster situations (i.e. humanitarian interventions)?
4.3 What difference might be made in the frequency and severity of armed conflict as a consequence of greater participation of women in security policy making and decisions regarding conflict and armed force? (See UNSCR 1325) Consider the various behaviors and attitudes of women in official or service positions as portrayed in “The Whistleblower.”  What factors seemed to guide their attitudes and actions?  What realistic expectations might we have of the entry of more women into the security sector? How might peace education address these expectations so as to increase the possibility that gender equality would contribute to justice and peace?
4.4 What actions might this group itself undertake to confront these crimes?  What organizations might you work with? What demands might be made of governments, local and national and inter-governmental organizations and agencies?

Note to those who may adapt this reflective inquiry to their own learning settings

Please let us know by communication to IIPE of how you adapted it, or what other learning approaches you may have used to consider the problem of military sex trafficking and/or the Rees presentation, and/or “The Whistleblower”.  We plan to share a range of teaching-learning units and methods on the general topic of military violence against women.  In a forthcoming edition of the GCPE newsletter we will offer a learning exercise based on viewing Singers in the Band,” a documentary on sex trafficking to US military bases in Korea and the Philippines.

Thank you for any contribution you can make to educate for accountability of the traffickers and abolition of the traffic.

Betty Reardon


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