As it says in the Take One Action brochure, they “do not shy away from stark realities.” My choice of three films from this Festival were each likely to put me out of my comfort zone.
My first choice was The Prosecutors, a brutal exposition of the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. Insidious, coercive, and utterly toxic, this has long been dismissed as mere collateral damage.
A truly global documentary, The Prosecutors illustrated three diverse conflict-zones in which this form of violence occurs. In the former Yugoslavia, the aim of rape was ethnic cleansing, whereas in Columbia, sexual violence was used as a weapon to control communities.
The third country was the Democratic Republic of Congo (DOC.) Sexual abuse was not only used against women – although this is the larger victim group. But in the DOC, children were victims not only of sexual violence, but also, coercion into conflict as soldiers.
I’m painting a grim picture here, so perhaps I should refer again to the brochure. “Yet there is joy and inspiration… commitment, resilience and solidarity.”
The story shared in The Prosecutors focuses on the commitment of three people determined to seek justice for the victims of this systemic crime. In all scenarios, the link between justice and peace was a path to reconciliation.
In the discussion after the screening we were introduced to Olaoluwa Abagun (of Girl Pride Circle Initiative, Nigeria) and Sandy Brindley (Rape Crisis Scotland). Three important points were made.
First, that the film was prosecution-centred, rather than survivor-led. Also, by comparing countries such as Columbia and the DOC, it clearly demonstrated the causal link between military and sexual violence.
Third, was that two ‘prosecutors’ were women but in Bosnia Herzegovina, the advocate for women was, in fact, a man. By changing our perspectives, this film gave a message of hope and solidarity.
The discussion gave another widened perspective, challenging the audience to consider the link between rape as a weapon of war and ‘domestic’ rape.
While different in scale, similar issues occur within prosecution. The myth that women lie about sexual violence, the traumatic ‘re-victimising’ during the process, and the fact that Courts are adversarial and hierarchical are common factors.
As stated in the film, sexual violence stems from the combination of machismo and guns. The same toxic behaviour is seen in the intimidating atmosphere of the Courtroom, where men in wigs, and Jurys formed of ignorant, pliable people, preside over cases. It makes no difference whether this is the military courts of the DOC, or the High Courts of Scotland.
But… Take One Action festival is thus named for a reason. The tagline on the brochure says, “TAKE A SEAT, TAKE A STAND.” Even if you missed this film and the important discussion afterwards, visit the website and be part of the action. “Come, take part, be inspired.”