Kailua, Hawaii (GREED) – As the United States finds itself further entangled in political tensions overseas, it is women both overseas and domestically that will pay the highest cost of war. Although women in the U.S. military have only just last year been formally allowed into combat, our gender is no stranger to violent conflict. Whether actively fighting, playing a supportive role, or simply fleeing for their lives, women worldwide have felt the pain and suffering created by war acutely throughout history. Women struggle to support their families during deployments and often lose fathers, brothers, sons and husbands. If and when men do return from war, they are embittered and traumatized, and the women who love them are more likely to become the victims of domestic violence. Overseas, women often become living pawns in acts of war; suffering and violence is the norm. It’s a rich man’s game, but women of the world are paying the price.
Women in war zones frequently suffer unspeakable violence. A 2002 independent expert assessment funded by UNIFEM describes these atrocities:
“Wombs punctured with guns. Women raped and tortured in front of their husbands and children. Rifles forced into vaginas. Pregnant women beaten to induce miscarriages. [Fetuses] ripped from wombs. Women kidnapped, blindfolded and beaten on their way to work or school. We saw the scars, the pain and the humiliation. We heard accounts of gang rapes, rape camps and mutilation. Of murder and sexual slavery. We saw the scars of brutality so extreme that survival seemed for some a worse face than death.” – Women, War and Peace, UNIFEM
Those who are able to flee find themselves in horrendous situations as well. With many countries refusing refugees due to anti-Muslim propaganda and a climate of fear, people escaping conflict zones are being turned away from safe harbors. Nearly 80% of refugees seeking sanctuary are women and children. They have often lost everything, and have nowhere to go. Often this forces them into dubious situations, such as resorting to prostitution or other sorts of exploitative employment in order to support themselves and their children. Even UN peacekeepers have been accused of exploiting these women and children – women fleeing the horrors of war have no safe places.
There is a powerful history of women opposing war. Estimates vary, but perhaps as few as 25% of women today believe war is necessary. Whether representing ourselves as mothers, feminists, or simply citizens of the world, women can and should demand an end to all war. While female activists have tried many different protest tactics throughout centuries of warfare, a focus on human rights pervades the current political climate. In her 2013 article, Ruth Rosen asks the question: “Does it matter which language women use when they fight against war and violence?” It doesn’t matter. We need to unify and act, before it is too late.
“Therefore if you insist upon fighting to protect me, or ‘our’ country, let it be understood, soberly and rationally between us, that you are fighting to gratify a sex instinct which I cannot share; to procure benefits which I have not shared and probably will not share; but not to gratify my instincts, or to protect either myself or my country. ‘For,’ the outsider will say, ‘in fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.’” – Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas, 1938
This is a call-to-action for women all over the world. There are many ways to be a voice for change. Currently, anti-war protests are erupting all around the world – join them. Write letters, editorials, and articles; while the mainstream media may ignore you, many independent media outlets are looking for motivated and passionate writers, including this one. Educate everyone you speak to about the impact of ceaseless war – and its impact on us as women, and as human citizens of the world. Engage in debate concerning the reasons for ongoing war. As Arundhati Roy said in her 2004 Sydney Peace Prize Lecture, “Time was when weapons were manufactured in order to fight wars. Now wars are manufactured in order to sell weapons.” Wars today aren’t fighting for freedom – not for anyone; they are fighting for power, for resources, and for arms industries. If you are one who genuinely believes that war makes us safer, I would encourage you to read further into the quality of life for women in war zones; the horror of it all might cause you to reevaluate your stance.