“In modern wars, it is more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier.”
Lester Holt, anchor of NBC Nightly News and Dateline, began the Women for Women International 10th Annual Luncheon by asking, “is this true?” Over the two-hour program, Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario, CEO of Women for Women International and Lester Holt attempted to answer this question.
On the face, the answer is no, it’s not more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in modern war. In 2016, men accounted for 84 percent of violent deaths whereas women only accounted for 16 percent. More men die in war because more men are expected to be soldiers. But, especially in modern times, wars are not fought just on the battle field. War and conflict permeates communities, disrupts lives, and affects men as well as women and children.
Looking through Addario’s photography, it’s easy to see the cost of war and conflict in not just lives lost. Addario has covered issues such as maternal mortality and sexual violence in war in addition to being on the frontlines of conflict in countries like Syria, Libya and Iraq. During Women for Women International’s luncheon, she spoke at length about rape as a weapon of war as well as maternal mortality in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, country where 57% of women have been raped and over 22% die in childbirth.
Addario explained, “…conflict and war is in our communities, in our homes, and women’s very bodies are being used as battle grounds. We saw that in Bosnia where 20,000 women were put in rape camps, and the Bosnian people were torn apart by attempting to divide through rape. We saw that in Rwanda. 500,000 women killed in 100 days. This was a deliberate attempt to wipe out a people.”
There are consequences of war in today’s world that are not fully addressed or acknowledged. Women who sued for reparations after the Bosnian war for the sexual violence they experienced didn’t file for nearly two decades because of the stigma around sexual violence in their communities. They also lost the reparations case. To this day, their suffering is unacknowledged in Bosnia. In Uganda, girl soldiers from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are often left out of rehabilitation projects because of the misconception that only boy soldiers were lured into the LRA.
Women and men experience war differently, but the consequences remain the same. Death, trauma, and violence. As Addario points out, “I think everyone is subject to what’s going on [in war]. The men are often tortured and beaten, and the women are sexually assaulted. Trauma is trauma, you can’t quantify which is worse. Everyone is a victim of war… every woman, every child every man.”
About the author: Coby Jones is Senior Communications Associate at Women for Women International.