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Advances in gender equality legislature mean that women are allowed to enter fields that were at one point exclusively male. There are female doctors, mechanics, engineers and police officers. The military is still predominantly male despite the presence of a growing number of female soldiers. This begs the question, how are women affected by war?
Women who serve in the armed forces may often find themselves having to work harder to gain their colleagues’ respect. They may not be seen as strong enough until they definitively prove themselves to be so. There have also been cases in the American military where female soldiers have been sexually assaulted by the very people who are supposed to fight side by side with them. Such cases show a need for more thorough screening before people are allowed to serve in that capacity.
Despite the growing number of female soldiers in armies around the world, the majority of the women affected by war are actually the ones left behind when men are fighting. They are the ones who learn about their children’s deaths or the deaths of their husbands and are forced to pick up the pieces afterward. In some developing countries where war has been ongoing for years, the women become targets. Without husbands or male children of age and unskilled in defense they may be unable to protect themselves from invading militias. This makes simple tasks like fetching water dangerous no matter how necessary they are.
There are rules governing war and nations that have signed agreements that deal with those rules claim to follow them. Despite this, no war has yet been fought on the planet Earth in which innocent people did not also die. Women who are not engaged in combat may become victims simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes that place is a house of worship, a supermarket or even their own homes. When this happens, their deaths are labeled as ‘collateral damage’ and very little is done about it.
War has been a part of human civilizations for as far back as we can tell and it continues to be a wasteful use of potential. People die, resentments are stoked and the cycle continues. Women may be particularly vulnerable but they also have played great roles in reaching out to each other and making friends of enemies to prevent further conflict.
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