Feminist Peace Network

How Effective Is the HPV Vaccine?

When Merck and Co. introduced Gardisil, the media acknowledged that there were some concerns about the safety, effectiveness and cost of the vaccine, but the concern quickly died, and the media for the most part allowed itself to be sucked up into the excitement that finally there was a vaccine that could prevent cancer. After I wrote a piece addressing the issues mentioned above as well as Merck's lobbying and marketing blitz ("Making the HPV Vaccine Mandatory is Bad Medicine") along with several blog posts here (see below for links), I took a great deal of flak, much of it from feminist friends who wondered how I could possibly bad-mouth this pharmaceutical wonder that might save so many lives.

The answer quite bluntly had to do with looking beyond the very well-funded Merck hype and examining the facts. But beyond myself and a few others, the media did not make much effort to investigate whether the hype was justified or appropriate.

Last week however, The New York Times ran several articles by Elizabeth Rosenthal (here and here) that finally address the points that I had raised. Rosenthal writes that, according to the New England Journal of Medicine,

"Two vaccines against cervical cancer are being widely used without sufficient evidence about whether they are worth their high cost or even whether they will effectively stop women from getting the disease."

Shifting the Blame in Gender-Motivated Violence

Anna Greer has a very thought-provoking piece in Wo! Magazine about the use of the passive voice in describing gender-based violence. She writes:

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The Silencing of Tracy Barker

Heart over at Women’s Space has an excellent, comprehensive report on Tracy Barker another Halliburton/KBR employee who experienced hrorendous sexual harassment and assault while working in Iraq. The blog takes a hard look not only at the facts of the case but also why it has received relatively little attention compared to the case of Jamie Leigh Jones,
“I don’t know why Jamie Leigh Jones, who spent only four days in Iraq, has received the amount of publicity and support she’s received, compared with Barker who spent over a year there in both Baghdad and Basra. I can’t help but wonder whether it is because, as Barker was told, “Gang rape sells, not sexual assault or ‘just’ rape.” I wonder whether it might be, in part, because Barker is French Basque/Spanish and is hence a woman of color, therefore not the kind of complainant the blonde American Jamie Leigh Jones is, or because Jones’s father was the kind of man who could gain the immediate attention of a Republican legislator with a quick phone call, securing his daughter’s release within three days of the attacks on her. I wonder if it might be, in part, because Barker is a mother of five, instead of a young woman in her 20s with no children. I wonder whether it was because Barker saw too much, knew too much, including about the attacks of Halliburton employees on Iraqi women as well as Halliburton employees. I wonder if, despite Mokhtare’s own admissions, Barker going to his room – even though as part of her job, it was up to her to address the problem he said he had with his air conditioner — made her claims less interesting or credible somehow. I suspect, in part, it might be because at times, Barker has seemed to castigate and blame herself, to express guilt and remorse for being unable in her drugged exhaustion to fight Craig Grabein off when he raped her, in the way, women often blame ourselves, as though it is up to us to keep men from raping us, instead of up to men to stop raping women.
Whatever the reason, the silencing of Tracy Barker is an outrage. Her story must be heard, and she must receive justice. To that end, I have written this post. Please, spread the word.”
Kudos to Heart for putting all of this together and asking the necessary questions.

Dyncorp Used Armored Car To Transport Prostitutes in Iraq

Wow–I know I sure feel safer knowing that my tax dollars were used to transport prostitutes rather than protect someone on a dangerous mission (albeit that I probably would be quite opposed to whatever the mission was, but that’s another topic):

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Iraq War Vet Accused of Raping a Three Month Old Baby

This gruesome report from Jackson, Michigan serves as a reminder that the sexual violence and the blatant disregard for the lives of civilians, particularly women and children, that is an inevitable part of militarism does not end when soldiers leave the battlefield:
"A former Army paratrooper who served two tours of duty in Iraq has been ordered tried on charges of raping and critically injuring a 3-month-old girl.
Kirk Coleman is charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and first-degree child abuse, charges that carry up to life in prison.The girl sustained brain damage and 17 broken bones and is undergoing therapy. District Judge R. Darryl Mazur ruled Tuesday there's enough evidence to warrant a trial.
Coleman allegedly told investigators he blacked out after drinking heavily and taking pain killers and awoke to find the injured baby in her crib."
Unfortunately, as reports from the Democratic Republic of Congo indicate, we are likely to see more of these cases as soldiers come back from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Military Provides Funeral With Full Honors for Rapist

Anne K. Ream has an excellent Op Ed in the Los Angeles Times that examines whether a man who is convicted of rape in a civilian court should still be entitled to military burial with full honors because he was honorably discharged from the military prior to when he committed the rape.
"To be clear, changing the military burials policy would be a largely symbolic act. The Department of Justice conservatively estimates that fewer than 40% of all rapes are reported to authorities, demonstrating how infrequently sexual predators are held accountable. The military in particular has a long history of downplaying or decriminalizing the violence against women committed by men in its ranks. A 2003 Veterans Administration report on military sexual trauma estimated that 60% of women in the Reserves and National Guard experienced rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment while on active duty. Defense Department figures show that there were nearly 3,000 accusations of sexual assault in the military in 2006, up 24% from 2005."
"It is tempting, and far too easy, to maintain that the military exists in a realm separate from the civilian world. We tell ourselves that the moral ambiguities demonstrated by soldiers who have gone to battle on our behalf cannot be understood by, or be subject to the laws that govern, the rest of us. But the policies our military establishes to respond to violence against women are not merely abstractions. They are expressions of the military's values, and our own.
In the wake of mass violation of women and girls during the conflicts in Kosovo and Rwanda, rape and sexual violence were for the first time codified as distinct crimes under international law. How telling then, and how troubling, that our country's policy on military burials is at odds with international standards the United States worked to establish."

WaPo Columnist Blames US Feminists for Oppression of Saudi Women

We had so much fun playing the feminist blame game a few weeks ago, that we thought oh what the heck, let's do it again. This week's installment comes from the WaPo's Ann Applebaum who reminds us that the oppression of Saudi women is the fault of American feminists:

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Halliburton/KBR Must Answer for Multiple Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Employees

I'm sure you'll all be relieved to know that the military contractor KBR does not tolerate sexual harassment. Just ask them. Here in all its glory is the memo they sent to their employees disputing the facts in the lawsuit brought by former employee Jamie Leigh Jones alleging that the military contractor locked her in a room for more than 24 hours after she was gang-raped and tried to cover up the facts of the case-an act that should certainly be called something a lot worse than sexual harassment (see here and here for more on the case).

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Saudis Threaten Rape Victim With Additional Sentence if She Appeals Verdict

This post, written by Lucinda Marshall, originally appeared on Feminist Peace Network

The Saudis are continuing to piously justify the recent sentencing of a 19 year old victim of a gang rape to 6 months in jail and 200 lashes for idling in a car with men who were not her relatives, issuing the following statement, according to the Toronto Star
""We reiterate that judicial rulings in this virtuous country ... are based on God's book and the traditions of his Prophet and that no ruling is issued without being based on evidence," said the statement carried by official news agency SPA."
More ominously, the court has said that if the woman appeals the sentence and continues to use the media to raise awareness of the case, it is possible that the sentence will be increased, giving the clear message that the Saudis also consider it a crime to shed light on their deeply misogynist laws.
"The woman's husband has told local media they would appeal, even though the judge had warned that the sentence could be increased again if she loses the appeal.

Bush Accepts Violence Against Women as Long as US Allies Inflict It

This post, written by Lucinda Marshall, originally appeared on Feminist Peace Network

As journalist Mary Kay Blakely pointed out many years ago, sometimes there simply aren't two sides to a story. That is most certainly true in the case of the 19 year old victim of a gang rape who was recently sentenced by a Saudi court to 6 months in jail and 200 lashes. Her crime? Riding in a car with men who were not her relatives. There cannot be any acceptable cultural or legal justification for the violation of human rights, even when the country committing the violation is a U.S. ally.

CNN apparently didn't get that memo if their recent "Saudi: Why We Punished Rape Victim" is any indication. According to the report, the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. told CNN that Saudi Arabia,
"welcomes constructive criticism and insisted that the parties' rights were preserved in the judicial process."We would like to state that the system has ensured them the right to object to the ruling and to request an appeal," the statement continued, "without resorting to sensationalism through the media that may not be fair or may not grant anyone any rights, and instead may negatively affect all the other parties involved in the case."
The statement also described the progress of the woman's case and explained that it was heard by a panel of three judges, not one judge "as mentioned in some media reports.""
"It said the case was treated normally through regular court procedures, and that the woman, her male companion and the perpetrators of the crime all agreed in court to the sentences handed down.""
And their other choice would have been???

The article goes on to say that U.S. officials have expressed dismay, but not directly to the Saudis. Gee, that is helpful.

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