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Conscientious objection

02 September 2016
3 min read
Volume 24 · Issue 9

According to Holroyd (1971: 628), in March 1916 the author Lytton Strachey attended a tribunal, seeking exemption from conscription on the grounds of conscientious objection (CO). He was asked by a tribunal member, ‘…what would you do if you saw a German soldier attempting to rape your sister?’ Strachey replied: ‘I should try and come between them.’ The tribunal rejected his CO, but he was deemed medically unfit for service.

At first glance, the story of how a great author, and greater snob, avoided military service a century ago has little resonance with modern health care. But with rape a common weapon of contemporary war, a modern-day Strachey might argue that if his sister were raped by a soldier, he would recommend emergency hormonal contraception, which has been available without prescription since 2002 in the UK and 2011 in Ireland (Gallagher et al, 2013).

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