Compulsory recruitment to the military affects different people and groups in different ways. This month we share the story of transwomen in Thailand. In many countries where men are drafted, trans* women1 are also recruited. Although the documentary focuses on Thailand, the experiences it shows are mirrored in the lives of trans* women facing conscription in other parts of the world. The Thai Transgender Alliance for Human Rights have released guidelines, advice for both recruiters and draftees. Militarism relies on a binary definition of sex and gender roles: strong men are necessary to protect their society (and especially women and children). Anyone who rejects - or seems to threaten - simplistic and binary approaches to gender faces numerous risks in a military environment.
Elsewhere, there is good news from parts of Rojava - the Kurdish region of Syria - where CO rights have been recognised; in nearby Egypt, a new CO has publicly declared himself a refuser. In more worrying news, the process for COs to be recognised in Ukraine has been complicated, and conscription in Lithuania - which was reintroduced recently for a period of five years - has been established permanently.
There are often rumours of conscription in times of political tension, or when right-wing spokespeople raise fears of the 'indiscipline of youth'. Such rumours often circulate without impact, but sometimes they are the start of a wider campaign and eventual reintroduction of compulsory military service. Read our story on developments in Bulgaria, Iraq and North Korea.
From Latin America, Bolivian COs have been encouraged by a statement of solidarity sent to them from Asamblea Nacional de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia in Colombia, following a rejection by the Constitional Court. That same court however has ruled that the 'Supreme Decree 1875', a law which reduced the age of recruitment for compulsory military service in Bolivia from 18 to 17 years of age, is unconstitutional.
In January, Colombia's Constitutional Court ruled that the army should release Cristian Andrés Cortés Calderón, who was wrongfully recruited. A new report from Acción colectiva de objetores y objetoras de conciencia in Colombia focuses on the problem of arbitrary detention - usually undertaken through batidas (raids). Though batidas are banned, this report shows that, in practice, they are still common.
I've been enjoying the work of KnowDrones in the USA, who've used TV adverts and pages in the Air Force Times to call upon drone pilots to disobey orders and refuse to fly missions, as well as an action that took place on Anzac Day in New Zealand this month, placing statues of a World War One conscientious objector on flag poles around Wellington, challenging the 'militarisation of ANZAC day, its romanticisation of war, and its promotion of the armed forces'.
1'Trans*' is used to encompass different identities that use 'trans', as well as as other non-cis gender indentities. See http://www.pdxqcenter.org/bridging-the-gap-trans-what-does-the-asterisk-mean-and-why-is-it-used/