FGM: An Ever-Lasting Fight?

FGM: An Ever-Lasting Fight?

FGM is the perfect example of the inequality many women and girls still have to suffer in today’s world. It stands for Female Genital Mutilation. The procedure entails the cutting and damaging of the female genitals and is also known as female circumcision.  

 

There are four different types of FGM, from Type 1 being the least extreme to Type 4 being the most harmful. Within these types, there are many different variations: 

Type 1 – Partial or total removal of clitoral glans. 

Type 2 – Partial removal or total removal of clitoral glans and labia minora with or without labia majora. 

Type 3 – Narrowing of the vaginal opening with a covering seal. The covering is made by cutting and repositioning the labia minora or the labia majora. 

Type 4 – All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia e.g. piercing, pricking or incising. 

 

FGM is usually carried out between infancy and the age of 15. Many undergo this harmful practice before puberty or before they get married. It has no health benefits at all, is extremely painful and harms the physical and mental health of women and girls who undergo it. It has both short-term and long-term complications e.g. injury or trauma to adjoining areas, difficulties with menstruation and birthing, infection, or even death. There are many different reasons as to why FGM is carried out. In some communities, it’s an initiation into womanhood, whereas in others, the female genitalia is considered dirty and impure so the procedure is performed to “cleanse” the body. Some believe that the man’s sexual pleasure will be enhanced and will also reduce the woman’s sexual appetite at the same time. However, this does far more than just reduce a woman’s sexual pleasure and appetite, as it causes great discomfort and pain during sexual intercourse. 

 

The procedure has been documented in 30 countries, mainly in Africa, the Middle East and Asia and is a well-established tradition in many communities. Girls who don’t undergo the practice are at risk of being ostracized and “dishonouring” their family. 

 

The latent purpose of this immoral practice is to teach women and young girls that they are inferior to men. In this day and age, where women are still fighting to be seen as equals by their male peers, why isn’t an old tradition that is not only dangerous but extremely misogynistic abolished? Why should women have to give up their control over their body, give up their right to make their own decisions to please a man? FGM, even if done without malicious intentions, is a form of torture and a violation of basic human rights. It’s not just a harmful practice, it’s a connotation for inequality and conveys the message that a woman’s purpose is to serve a man’s needs.

 

Although there haven’t been many cases of FGM in Ireland, it is still an issue. Organisations like AkiDwA, a national network of migrant women living in Ireland, are aware of women who have undergone the practice. According to AkiDwA, there is estimated to be 5,790 women and girls who have undergone FGM living in Ireland, as well as 1,632 women and girls at risk of it. In 2012, a Criminal Justice Act was passed that prohibited the practice of FGM in Ireland and also made it illegal to take someone to another country to perform FGM on them. However, it is still being done and many cases are never discovered. Multiple organisations are therefore trying to spread awareness about the practice and hope to combat the obstacle that it represents for many migrant women.

 

AkiDwA have trained “Community Health Ambassadors” that go around the country and bring attention to the procedure, the laws opposing it and the effect it has on women and children physically and psychologically. They have also held events on zero tolerance to FGM day for two consecutive years. In a partnership with ActionAid, they founded the “AFTER” project to raise awareness about how harmful FGM can be to migrant communities. During phase 1 of the “AFTER” project, 36 workshops were operated in Cork and 100 participants were reached. These workshops were held for men, women and girls. ActionAid composed a documentary called “Girls from Earth”.The testimonies of religious leaders, women and African activists against FGM are included in the documentary. Phase 2 of the “AFTER” began in May 2019. They hope to reach 400 people nationwide, facilitate 12 more workshops in direct provision centres and work with major organisations like An Garda Siochana, Tusla, HSE etc. Another goal is to provide members with the skills required to address FGM cases and engage “30 Champions for Change” to advocate for better services for survivors and against FGM.

 

Pembridge Pictures is releasing the film ‘A Girl from Mogadishu’ in April. The movie is based on  Ifrah Ahmed’s story and shows her own experience with FGM and how she got into advocacy. Ifrah Ahmed is also the founder and program director of Ifrah Foundation. Their goal is to eradicate FGM in Somalia, the country with the highest prevalence of FGM in the world, and spread awareness in Ireland. 

 

In my opinion, it’s simply unjust that women or girls have to endure this horrific procedure just to get married and then live with the long-term and short-term agony of it. And let’s not forget the psychological trauma that an event so cruel can do to someone. Whenever I read about the topic I feel upset that there are women and girls who are forced to damage their bodies to please a man and if disobeyed, are being ostracized by their community and family. It’s even more heartbreaking to hear that people are still practising this tradition when they move abroad. Ireland is a country that embraces other cultures and traditions but this is just plain abuse. I believe it’s a system put in place to bring down women, strip their fundamental rights and dignity away and show that men still have power over them.

 

Please sign this petition below to eradicate FGM in Ireland by 2030.

https://actionaid.ie/join-the-fight-against-fgm/

 

 

Photo by Gynelle Leon (This Little Light of Mine, 2015)

 

 

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A Student’s Perspective: Sweden is Playing With Fire

I write from Sweden, a country which has chosen not to take strict measures as other European countries to fight COVID-19. I am an Irish masters student at Lund University and find the lack of movement worrying. If the virus is not contained here, we will encounter a health emergency as we have seen in Italy.

FGM: An Ever-Lasting Fight?

FGM is the perfect example of the inequality many women and girls still have to suffer in today’s world. It stands for Female Genital Mutilation. The procedure entails the cutting and damaging of the female genitals and is also known as female circumcision. Although there haven’t been many cases of FGM in Ireland, it is still an issue here.

A Student’s Call to Action on Climate Change

Climate change and environment issues, in general, are the most talked about topics these days, and for good reason. With all this news of despair and disaster regarding climate change it is easy to think that no matter what we do, nothing is enough. But this isn’t necessarily the case.

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An Interview with OurTable: “It All Comes Down to Integration”

An Interview with OurTable: “It All Comes Down to Integration”

STAND talks to Ellie Kisyombe from Our TABLE Dublin about the history of Direct Provision in Ireland, changes to the system and the role of ‘OurTable’. 

 

 

 

 

 

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An Interview with OurTable: “It All Comes Down to Integration”

STAND’s Cedric speaks to Ellie Kisyombe from Our TABLE Dublin about the history of Direct Provision in Ireland, changes to the system and the role of ‘OurTable’. 

An Interview with ShoutOut: Marriage Equality Didn’t End Discrimination

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DCU Mental Health Society on suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

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The Bernard Shaw is closing its doors

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The Construction of a Mass Graveyard: Europe’s Externalization Policy

The Construction of a Mass Graveyard: Europe’s Externalization Policy

The UNHCR recently released figures of the number of people forcibly displaced in the world. The overall figure topped 70.8 million, from which 25.9 million are refugees who have had to cross international borders to look for better livelihoods. Most of these migrants come from countries that have continuously persecuted their lives to a point where fleeing is the only option left. Despite around 80% of refugees being hosted in countries neighbouring their own, the desired end destination can often be more developed countries for the hope of increased opportunities and security. The increase in migrant flows, especially due to the ongoing conflicts in Syria, South Sudan and Afghanistan has put immense pressure on not only neighbouring states but also many countries in Europe. However, the lack of a proper database system in Europe has made it difficult for states to determine the cases of thousands of asylum seekers.  

 

The purpose of what is known as the ‘Dublin Regulation’ is to establish which member state of the EU is responsible for the examination of asylum applications from asylum seekers. In practical terms, the EU state in which the asylum seeker first applies is responsible for the application procedure. The regulation also allows the state to consider other criteria: from family considerations to recent possessions of visas in a member state to whether the applicant has entered the EU irregularly or regularly. However, this process accounts for various flaws in the system. Firstly, most asylum seekers often flee in tough situations and do not have the time to collect all their relevant documentation and hence, under the regulation, their applications would be rejected indefinitely due to the lack of documentation. Secondly, most asylum seekers have to take dangerous pathways to get to an EU state and sometimes these include being smuggled across the Mediterranean in rubber rafts. The irregularity in arrival to the EU more often than not prolongs application processes for making an asylum claim. But, most importantly, these continuous irregular arrivals in large numbers have put immense pressure on states that are close to the Mediterranean like Greece, Italy and Spain. This leads to the encampment of migrants in Greece while the other two countries place them in asylum centres  in which they could spend years in overcrowded conditions that put their lives at various risks. 

 

In an attempt to control these influxes, the EU has inherited a Border Externalization policy. These policies are created to externalize their borders, making it hard for forcibly displaced people to get to Europe in the first place. This involves agreements with Europe’s neighbouring countries to accept migrants whose claims have been rejected, to providing advisory on how they should adopt similar measures of border control. In other words, these agreements have turned Europe’s neighbours into becoming Europe’s policemen. And because they are so far away from Europe’s shores, the impacts are completely almost invisible to citizens of the EU. The United States has also been actively “de-bordering” their borders since 9/11 by thickening of border defences through the creation of buffer zones to the notion of “smart borders” that are able to filter people and goods rather than block their flow. They are also increasing the  use of military technology for border enforcement, as well as layered border inspection/policing approaches that move customs and immigration away from the actual territorial border.

 

Despite their similarities, I would argue that the EU’s externalization policy is far more instrumental in the way that it acts. There are far more actors and mechanisms that play a role in implementing EU’s externalization policy. The EU and individual member states like Italy, Germany and Spain are now providing millions of euros for various projects to stop the migration of certain people taking place on or across European borders. Deals with countries like Turkey, Libya and Morocco have enabled the EU to train their police and border guards, establish extensive biometric systems, and donations of air surveillance equipment like drones and helicopters that make monitoring more effective. 

 

What makes these deals problematic are that many of the countries receiving support are authoritarian and not stable themselves and the funds they receive often go to state security organs most responsible for suppression and abuse of human rights. The EU in all its policies puts human rights, democracy and rule of law at the core of its practices but there seems to be no basis for this when it comes to embracing dictatorial regimes as long as they serve them by keeping “irregular” migrants from reaching European shores. These policies therefore have sweeping consequences for displaced people especially when their “illegal” status already makes them vulnerable to human rights abuses. Many of them, especially those that are intercepted at sea are taken back to countries like Libya or Morocco where they end up in exploitative working conditions, detention centres  and/or get deported to countries where they fled from. Women and children face high risks of gender-based violence, sexual assault and exploitation.

 

The growth in tracking and management of EU’s externalization policies have turned the Mediterranean into Europe’s graveyard. There have been thousands of documented deaths in this area while thousands more go unnoticed. This narrow self-defeating concept of security and migration control has  increased the risks that forcibly displaced people face at various levels. More importantly, it does not address the root causes of migration like conflict, violence, economic deficiencies, and does not hold the states accountable for not being able to manage these problems. Instead, by enhancing military and security forces both internally and externally, it is likely to aggravate suppression, limit democratic accountability and increase the conflicts that will lead to more people being forcibly displaced. It is time to change the course. Instead of externalizing borders and walls we should be externalizing real unity and respect for the people who have already lost so much on their way.

 

 

Photo by Georgetown Journal of International Affairs

 

 

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The Crumbling Humanitarian Situation on Lesbos

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Uyghurs Interned in Chinese Camps at Higher Risk of Covid-19

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Pressure From Local Communities Stops Deportation Orders

Pressure From Local Communities Stops Deportation Orders

Michael Usiku, a student of Carlow College, is the latest example in a string of deportation orders delayed as a result of pressure from local communities. Michael, a Malawian national, received a deportation order in December 2019 after failing to provide proof of study in time for a renewal of his student visa. This failure was partially due to the fact that the deadline set by the Irish National Immigration Service (INIS) was several months before Carlow College sent letters of enrolment. As a result, Michael’s student visa was not renewed and he was ordered to leave the country.

 

The deportation order came while Michael was sitting his exams, and ordered Michael to leave the country by December 29. In response to the order, a number of Carlow College staff and students mobilised, as well as several civil society organisations. A group of approximately 25 protesters met at the steps of the Department of Justice on December 18, in order to pressure the Minister for Justice into stopping the deportation and granting Michael a visa to complete his education. This may have been instrumental in leading to the delay of the deportation order for 10 days as his deadline approached, at which point he was required to sign in with the INIS. Following this sign-in, the order was delayed again until the 20 February, at which point he must sign in with the INIS again, according to Adam Kane, President of Carlow College Students’ Union.

 

This case is one in a string of cases where local communities, and schools in particular, have been instrumental in the delay or revocation of deportation orders. The case of Eric Zhi Ying Mei Xue, a child who was born in Ireland to a Chinese national, gained significant media attention around the same time as Michael’s case. In Eric’s case, his primary school mobilized support for their pupil, who had never been to China, and who would have limited access to services in China such as health and education, as he is not a Chinese citizen.

 

Although there are differences between these cases, in particular the length of stay, and the depth of integration into Irish society, they also show similarities. One of these is the role of local communities, and in particular of schools in mobilizing support, and the capacity of this support to have a significant influence on the decisions of the INIS and the Department of Justice. Another similarity appears to be the discomfort shown with deportation, an understandable unease in a traditional country of emigration. This discomfort is particularly evident around children born in Ireland to parents who have no right to residence. This phenomenon follows the passing of the referendum in 2004 that revoked the ius soli rule whereby those born on Irish soil automatically become Irish citizens. Since then, there have been multiple cases of children who are born and raised in Ireland, who nonetheless have no right to Irish citizenship. The discomfort with this situation is clear from the level of community mobilisation for those who have regular contact with these children, although this policy is by no means unusual internationally.

 

Ireland is not the first country to learn the hard way how difficult it is to forcibly return individuals who have built connections in the country. The Netherlands, which used to adopt a dispersal policy for asylum seekers realised that this led to the integration of asylum seekers into the small villages and towns to which they were sent. This made deportation very difficult, with communities staunchly protesting deportation orders. As a result, the Netherlands had to reverse this policy, and now mainly keeps asylum seekers in housing centres close to big cities in an effort to prevent integration into the local community. 

 

While many countries have been dealing with sensitive situations of migration and deportation for many years, it is a relatively new phenomenon for Ireland. Ireland’s immigrant population has quadrupled since 1990, when the Celtic Tiger changed Ireland’s economic and employment landscape. However, with a greater ability to control our borders, due to relative geographic isolation, cases like those currently being experienced have been rare. Nonetheless, Ireland has increasingly become a country of destination for both EU and non-EU migrants, likely thanks to a strong demand for both high-skilled and low-skilled labour, and a continuously strong economy. The significant shift in Ireland’s migration profile in a very short period of time means that both our institutions and our society are ill-prepared to approach deportation and return, one of the most controversial issues in migration regulation. Another theme arising from these recent cases is that of discomfort with the idea of children born and raised in Ireland who have no right to Irish citizenship. Prior to the 2004 referendum that revoked the right, being born in Ireland automatically entitled children to Irish citizenship. While 79% of voters cast their vote in favour of this revocation, a Behaviour and Attitudes poll for the Sunday Times taken after the publicity garnered by Eric Zhi Ying Mei Xue’s situation showed that around 71% of those polled were in favour of granting this right to automatic citizenship. With increasing immigration and an increasing realisation of the reality of not providing birthright citizenship, it may be time for the Irish population to revisit this question, one of many challenging debates to be had in a changing country.  

 

 

Photo by marctasman, Wikimedia commons

 

 

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The Crumbling Humanitarian Situation on Lesbos

In recent years the Greek island of Lesbos has become a gateway for hundreds of thousands of people seeking refuge from war-torn countries such as Syria and Afghanistan. Moria, the largest refugee camp on Lesbos, has now far exceeded its capacity, and its living conditions are coming under increasing scrutiny.

7 Common Myths About Migration

Studying migration makes you face a lot of assumptions that you have about the scary and controversial topic that it is. Migration might just be one of the most misunderstood areas of life, governance, and public policy. In this article, we lay out some of the most common myths about the topic, and bust them for you.

Uyghurs Interned in Chinese Camps at Higher Risk of Covid-19

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In October 2016, bulldozers came into the refugee camp known as the Calais Jungle and tore apart the shelters that thousands of migrants had made their homes. Although it has been more than three years since the official eviction, it’s estimated that there are still almost 1,500 migrants living in the forests near Calais and Dunkirk, with around 200 of those being unaccompanied minors.

Asylum Seekers host Feminist Conference for International Women’s Day

On the 7th of March 2020, the organisation ‘Abolish Direct Provision’ hosted the first Asylum Seekers Feminist Conference, with the aim of uniting and empowering women in Direct Provision. The event, held in DCU, was attended by asylum seekers from Direct Provision centres all around the country.

Fairtrade Fortnight 2020: The Way to Sustainable Chocoholism

Fairtrade Fortnight 2020: The Way to Sustainable Chocoholism

Have you ever wondered what our life would be like without chocolate? It is hard to imagine such a scenario when you consider how many of today’s products either consist of or contain the beloved food. For Ireland, this would mean an especially great deal. After all, according to Fairtrade figures, Irish people are the third-largest chocolate consumers in the World. Only surpassed by Austria and Switzerland, the average person in Ireland ate about 17 pounds of chocolate in 2017.

 

While chocolate is generally associated with feeling good, there is a side to it that speaks a different truth. The difficulties that many cocoa farmers have to face to produce our chocolate have been repeatedly called out over the last few decades. Hazardous working conditions, exploitation and oppression, a lack of health care and even child labour define the daily lives of thousands of workers and their families. Even though many people are aware of the problem, it often seems difficult to actually do something about it as an individual.

 

Fairtrade Fortnight, a campaign organised by the Fairtrade Foundation, aims to raise awareness of the conditions in which many people in developing countries work to produce our food. For two weeks each year, hundreds of individuals, companies, and groups across Ireland come together to tell others about farmers’ and workers’ stories. In doing so, they want to demonstrate the positive impact of Fairtrade and hope to encourage people to buy more goods made to Fairtrade standards. This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight’s focus is on – as you might have guessed – chocolate. Particular attention will be paid to the women farmers who supply companies with cocoa, seeing that women often make only little profit from the food they grow compared to men. 

 

The campaign takes place from February 24th to March 8th and features a large number of guest speakers, such as Arjen Boekhold and Nicola Matthews from the Netherlands. Their chocolate company Tony’s Chocolonely pursues the mission to make chocolate completely slave-free and create fair conditions for all cocoa farmers. At the event’s opening night in Dublin, Boekhold spoke amongst other things about inequality in the chocolate industry, pointing out the power of the few multinational companies. “How can we talk about a fair economy or a free economy where you can negotiate prices? We have, one the one hand, two and a half million farmers and they have to negotiate with only two companies” Boekhold explained. The chocolate bar also has a unique design. Divided into parts of different sizes rather than even squares, the composition is meant to reflect the inequality between those who produce the chocolate and those who eventually profit from it. Boekhold stated his belief in Fairtrade saying, “I think Fairtrade is one of the few initiatives which really try to strengthen the position of farmers and make cooperatives work […] At this moment, around 6 to 7% of all cocoa worldwide is sold under Fairtrade terms. So that is a minority. But you see an impact, you see change.”

 

Allison Roberts, founder of the chocolate company Exploding Tree and one of the three bean-to-bar chocolate producers in Ireland, is a speaker at Fairtrade Fortnight as well. Located in Cork, her company handcrafts chocolate bars with 100% Fairtrade cocoa and coconut sugar bought directly from farming cooperatives like Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana. Running only a small company, Roberts says she feels freer to experiment with her chocolate and likes to create new flavours that don’t necessarily speak to the mainstream: Salt & Seaweed, Goats’ Milk, Dark Orange or 100% Cocoa are just some of them. And did you know that her company produces the only artisan milk chocolate bar made with Irish milk?  

 

It’s encouraging to see that progress has already been made. According to Fairtrade International, cocoa was the fastest-growing Fairtrade product category in 2017 with revenue rising by 57% in volume, and growth still continuing in 2018. But what is it that makes Fairtrade products so special? Why are they different from others and how does the label work?  

 

Fairtrade can be described as a trading partnership with the objective to promote greater justice in international trade. It serves as a certification scheme that ensures socially and economically fair production standards for goods from developing countries, such as chocolate, coffee, tea, cotton, fruits, sugar and also gold. Since these products are high in demand and consumed all around the world, a key mission is to make their production as sustainable as possible. International fair trade networks like Fairtrade International or World Fair Trade Organization have defined standards regarding workers’ rights, fair labour practices and environmental responsibility that organisations are required to follow in order to be labelled ‘Fairtrade’. 

 

First of all, farmers and workers must be paid a minimum price for their products, which guarantees them a stable income. FLOCERT, the audit and certification body for Fairtrade standards, regularly checks that this is implemented. In such a way, workers are given a safety net as they are protected from exploitation and can use income to save money for the future. Fairtrade farmers and workers also receive the Fairtrade Premium, an additional sum of money that goes to a communal fund of their choice. This fund helps workers improve their social, economic or environmental conditions through investment in things like better infrastructure, their children’s education or drinking water supplies. Another important aspect of Fairtrade is sustainable production, which involves farms and plantations avoiding pesticides and fungicides since these often cause great damage to people, wildlife and natural resources. If it’s impossible to circumvent toxicants, their usage has to be reduced to a minimum and resources like soil and water need to be kept clean. Additionally, all employees who might get in contact with the substances are required to wear protective clothing. But that’s not everything that Fairtrade is invested in. Other important issues that are being dealt with include child labour, climate change and gender inequality.

 

All in all, buying Fairtrade chocolate may not be the solution to every problem in the trading industry but it’s a good place to start and it proves that it’s not hard to make a positive impact, even if it’s small. As one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, Ireland has the chance to go ahead and make sure that Fairtrade products will be even more widespread and consumed in the future.

 

 

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

 

The Crumbling Humanitarian Situation on Lesbos

In recent years the Greek island of Lesbos has become a gateway for hundreds of thousands of people seeking refuge from war-torn countries such as Syria and Afghanistan. Moria, the largest refugee camp on Lesbos, has now far exceeded its capacity, and its living conditions are coming under increasing scrutiny.

7 Common Myths About Migration

Studying migration makes you face a lot of assumptions that you have about the scary and controversial topic that it is. Migration might just be one of the most misunderstood areas of life, governance, and public policy. In this article, we lay out some of the most common myths about the topic, and bust them for you.

Uyghurs Interned in Chinese Camps at Higher Risk of Covid-19

The Uyghurs in the northwestern region of China have undergone continuous and increasingly violent repression from the ruling Communist Party. Millions of them are currently imprisoned in “re-education camps” and aren’t given any protection from the novel coronavirus.

The Intersection of Human Rights And Covid-19 Restrictions in Europe

The outbreak of the coronavirus requires increased involvement by individual governments to protect their populations and ensure procedures are in place to help the most vulnerable. But what happens when governments overextend their executive power during a state of emergency?

Conversations from Calais: The Poster Project Bringing Humanity Back Into the Refugee Crisis

In October 2016, bulldozers came into the refugee camp known as the Calais Jungle and tore apart the shelters that thousands of migrants had made their homes. Although it has been more than three years since the official eviction, it’s estimated that there are still almost 1,500 migrants living in the forests near Calais and Dunkirk, with around 200 of those being unaccompanied minors.

Asylum Seekers host Feminist Conference for International Women’s Day

On the 7th of March 2020, the organisation ‘Abolish Direct Provision’ hosted the first Asylum Seekers Feminist Conference, with the aim of uniting and empowering women in Direct Provision. The event, held in DCU, was attended by asylum seekers from Direct Provision centres all around the country.

21st Century Warfare: Drone Technology

21st Century Warfare: Drone Technology

In December 2019, Turkey unveiled its latest military drone named ‘Songar’ equipped with a machine gun. This development indicates that drone warfare is evolving from firing missiles from a distance to engaging in close-quarters combat. According to Asisguard, the company who built the device, its purpose is to increase ‘survival against harassment fire in patrol zones and fortress patrol areas, or in the event of any ambush or threat during the transition of land vehicles and convoys’. Providing up to 200 rounds of ammunition and with accuracy to hit a human target within 200 metres, the website promotes its offensive as well as defensive capabilities. It’s also the latest addition to a complicated debate on the ethics of drone warfare.

 

Drone warfare emerged hand in hand with the ‘War on Terror’ after 9/11, in response to the changing nature of combat. Where traditionally, clearly defined battlefields existed and combatants were uniformed, the United States subsequently found themselves fighting terrorist cells, whose fighters were not easily identifiable. Supporters of the US drone programme state that it reduces the loss of lives of American soldiers, it’s more precise, and, as a result, produces less collateral damage. Critics state that it renders killing too accessible, promotes extremism by terrorising people affected by these strikes, and that there are more civilian casualties than the US government admits.

 

The ethical underpinning for drone strikes is that of the ‘Just War Theory’ which is a set of military ethics guidelines used to authorise the strikes. It is comprised of two broad principles; discrimination and proportionality. Discrimination determines what are and are not legitimate targets in war. Essentially, its purpose is the protection of non-combatant civilians. Proportionality determines how much force is morally appropriate to use, to protect unnecessary damage to civilian life and property. In layman’s terms, the harm caused by these strikes must be proportional to what is being gained by the military.

 

When considering this ethical framework, it is important to understand how drones are operated. Drones are typically piloted by members of the US military located far away at an airbase in the United States or US-controlled bases internationally, and not in the country in which the strike occurs. This certainly complicates human accountability in conflict and, to some degree, disconnects the public from the consequences of warfare. This is because of the reduction in casualties, where American soldiers are concerned, minimises the impact of war felt at home. The number of drone strikes more than doubled under the Obama administration when compared to George W. Bush’s administration, and under Trump’s administration, they have increased to one every 1.25 days on average. The rate of civilian deaths reportedly increased 52% under Trump and in 2019, he revoked an executive order implemented by Barack Obama which required members of the intelligence committee to publish the number of civilians killed in drone strikes. Consequently, the Trump administration is promoting decreased transparency and accountability. Non-combatants stand to lose the most under these conditions.

 

According to Amnesty International, leaked US military documents show that of the casualties as a result of drone strikes carried out within a 5 month period in 2013, 90% were not intended targets of the strike. This, combined with the prospect of lethal autonomous weapons, where technology chooses targets, being a possible reality in warfare, shows there is a clear need for a defined legal framework to be put in place to address modern warfare. Whatever side you are on in this argument between immorality and necessity, one thing is clear, the US is prioritising efficient and effective warfare, at the cost of foreign non-combatant’s lives.

 

 

 

Photo by jjprojects on Flickr

 

 

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