“Women’s Acrimony on Wars”
War has an insightful and exceptional consequence on women. Rather than being separate from women’s lives, war making relies on women’s participation. However, conservative views of the relationship between gender and war suggest that men make war, women make peace. Men, representing their nations or social groups, fight men of another group, while women remain outside the fighting, protected by “their” men. We can see the importance of the dichotomy of “women’s peace” and “men’s war” in politic, media, education and socialization, women are expected to be inherently creative, nurturing and peaceful, while men are bold, courageous warriors.
Women play many roles during the wartime: they’re “gendered” as mothers, as soldiers, as munitions makers, as caretakers, as sex workers. Ironically, while war making relies on women’s participation, women are also most often at the forefront of peace making efforts. How that womanhood in the context of war, may mean, for one woman, tearfully sending her son off to war, and for another, engaging in civil disobedience against the state? How might war’s social and economic consequences send some women into military prostitution and others into soldiering? And why do we think of war as “men’s business” when women as civilians are more likely to be killed and to become war refugees than men?
- The brunt of war on Women
Women suffer from war in many ways, including dying; experiencing sexual abuse and torture, and losing loved ones, homes and communities. People assume that women are unlikely to die in wars, since so few women are unlikely to die in wars, since so few women serve in the armed forces worldwide. But women, as civilians, are more likely to be killed in a war than being soldiers.
War’s impact on women has changed with the development of increasingly efficient war making technologies that make war and militarism more and more deadly. Most of the war since 1960’s has taken place in the less developed countries, particularly in Asia and sub- Saharan Africa. Military intervention, on the other hand, is consigned chiefly by former colonial powers (Hauchler and Kennedy).
Women are most likely to be uprooted by war. More than four –fifths of war refugees are women and young girls dying, who also experience additional and often sexualized violence during their flight. About 36 million women and girls have lost their home by 1992 (Hauchler and Kennedy). Refugee women often serve as their children’s sole caretaker, as many of them are widows or separated from their spouses and other extended family. They must seek food and safety not only for themselves, but also for their children. Refugee women are often the supporters of extended family network, playing a central economic role yet still lacking decision making power in their societies (Forbes Martin).
The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNCHR) cites sexual attacks on women and girls by camp guards as a major problem. Even those women and girls stationed in camps and refugee settlements, as well as in new societies of residence, frequently suffer sexual abuse, abduction, and forced prostitution. History has demonstrated the link between war and control of women’s sexuality and reproduction through rape, sexual harassment, and militarized prostitution. Women imprisoned for their political activities are commonly raped repeatedly by multiple rapists (Lorentzen). In the former Yugoslavia, thousands of Muslim women have been forced into camps and raped by Serbian soldiers, and Muslim and Croat soldiers have also committed mass rape (Stiglmayer). The idea that genocide could be accomplished by the mass rape of the women of the enemy’s ethnic group derives from patriarchal definition of ethnicity. In 1971 Pakistani soldiers raped more than 200,000 Bengali women in the Bangladesh war of independence (Hauchler and Kennedy). The recent case of Chinese soldiers committing mass rape on Tibetan women is a burning example.
Wartime prostitution may be either physically forced or economically coerced. During World War II, the Japanese military setup brothels in eastern and southern Asia. The prostitutes are often young girls endeavoring to support their families, or women who need to support their children (Enloe).
While mauling of women is common in most societies in peacetime, recent research indicates that domestic violence increases during wartime. Among the findings of research conducted through a Belgrade agency for domestic violence are as following : an increase in the number of sons who commit violence against their mothers in wartime; an increase in the number of assaults involving weapons, including pistols, grenades and other weapons from the war; an increase in violence in marriages where the husband and wife’s ethnicity differ; an increase in alcohol consumption among men returning from combat; and economic decline (Nikoli?-Ristanovi?).
Loss of family members inflicts suffering on women and men alike, but women are affected in particular ways because of their family roles. Losing husbands and sons may mean not only emotional loss but also lost economic support and social legitimacy. In some societies, women with no male family members lose all rights to protection, employment, benefits, or guarantees of security.
By listening to war affected women, we can understand more clearly the difference between mere survival and living in a just and peaceful world. Women’s life experiences expand our definition of violence to the personal: to rape and the fear of rape, to battering- crimes that should be public yet still remain primarily in the private or so called domestic sphere. Understanding feminist outrage at misogyny illustrates yet another example of militarization of our lives. Concerned women raise each day about the increasing difficulty of getting access to fuel, food, water, and shelter reminds us that ending war is not enough when our lifestyles themselves are killing this planet.
In the Millennium World Peace Summit held at New York, Nobel Peace laureate from Northern Ireland Betty Williams, Mahatma Gandhi’s grand daughter Ela Gandhi, eminent primatologist Jane Goodall and Vashti Mckenzie from African Methodist Episcopal Church attended a special session which was presided over by Mrs Indu Jain. Betty William is reported to have said : “War is essentially man’s work. Now move over. Women will ensure peace”. Stressing that practicing non violence is not for the faint hearted, she said it required exemplary courage.
Although it sounds to me like a cliché, that peace remains a “women’s issue”, not for reasons of motherhood or biological differences, but for reasons of justice. It’s not exclusively their domain. Peace have been viewed as a women’s subject for nearly as long as there has been war but the reasons have changed over the time as has the jeopardy and the ways in which wars are fought. We as women can pursue a cross cultural inquiry into women’s involvement to a global culture of peace. We must also document other ways as how militarism wears away fundamental security and degrade the quality of life by its effects on environment, human rights, and the possibilities for non violent conflict resolution. It is necessary to be aware of essentialism: as we are not all the same in our experiences, our goals and our means. We should learn to define peace in relation to others, but we must not define peace for others.