War: A Women's Issue
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The reasons that the Women's March on the Pentagon is a women's march are many. Not only is there a historical precedent for a women-led antiwar march, women from all walks of life, from countries that have both been victims of and aggressors in conflict, from past generations or those living today, are adversely affected by war at far a greater rate than men. These claims are supported by statistics though those same statistics and realities of war are often swept under the rug or excused as necessary collateral damage. It is time for all victims of war to be acknowledged and for the victimization of women to end.
In 2004, Common Dreams reported that "women and children account for almost 80% of the casualties of conflict and war as well as 80% of the 40 million people in world who are now refugees from their homes." But the harm done to women due to conflict does not simply stop there. For generations, women have been traded as goods, their bodies treated as commodities or objects free for the taking, not only during actual combat but simply when they are at or in the vicinity of a military base.
Irene Khan of Amnesty International states that "women and girls are not just killed, they are raped, sexually attacked, mutilated and humiliated. Custom, culture and religion have built an image of women as bearing the 'honour' of their communities. Disparaging a woman's sexuality and destroying her physical integrity have become a means by which to terrorize, demean and 'defeat' entire communities, as well as to punish, intimidate and humiliate women."
Sexual violence is literally and horrifyingly used as a tool of war. For generations women have been raped and violently brutalized wherever the war machine rears its ugly head. Many of these women have found themselves infected with sexuality transmitted diseases and/or pregnant, with not so much as an afterthought afforded by their abusers.
In some settings these events are a one-time occurrence engaged in in the midst of combat or when members of military leave their base, but other women are ripped from their homes and families and thrown into situations of human trafficking, all thanks to the war machine. Human trafficking ranges from forced labor to sexual slavery and is currently an invisible epidemic reaching all corners of the planet in addition to the existence of more visible brothels that "service" the troops near military bases.
Women willingly serving in the U.S. military are not exempt from sexual violence and abuse. According to Common Dreams, "U.S. servicewomen have reported hundreds of assaults in military academies and while serving on active duty. The perpetrators of these assaults have rarely been prosecuted or punished."
Across the globe, children are murdered or disabled by the war machine with many others left homeless and emotionally scared for life. More often than not, women are the primary caretakers of children, no matter the culture. The daily burden of lost or damaged children falls on mothers. Throughout the world, mothers are struggling to raise children in refugee camps or in countries where they know nothing and nobody. Still others remain at or close to home where they struggle to provide food for their families, often sacrificing their own. This happens in countries that are the victim of aggression and happens in countries where higher powers have imposed sanctions on the government, often limiting medications and necessary resources for everyday citizens.
Within the United States and in other "developed" countries, funding is stripped from social programs but pumped into military. Education, healthcare and other basic human rights take a backseat to war in the countries that claim to be a shining example of success to the rest of the world. These things affect every American and weigh heavily on mothers whether they realize the source or not. More directly, women are asked to send their husbands into combat or on lengthy training missions, thus ripping them away from their children and creating an unnecessary burden for all involved, under the guise of sacrificing something for the greater good of the country. Sometimes husbands and sons, (and now daughters, sisters and mothers) never come home, permanently altering the future and wellbeing of countless people. But most times, those who were deployed do come home. Ideally, life continues as usual but sometimes those who served return home damaged. Paralyzed, with a traumatic brain injury, or with a newfound streak of violence directed at wives who now find themselves married to partners they no longer recognize, service members return home and are expected to seamlessly adjust to their old civilian lifestyles.
Militarism is a failure to all humankind but it's effect on women is truly disturbing. The patriarchy it promotes is more damaging than most are prepared or willing to admit. The "war on terror" is terrorizing women and that violence is infinitely more destructive and damaging than what the war machine claims to be protecting us from. We, as a country, cannot claim to be engaging in acts of military aggression for the greater good or to be rescuing innocent civilians from an evil boogeyman when the basic existence of our military is terrorizing an entire gender, has been doing so for generations, and will continue to do so if we don't stand up and fight against it.
War is a women's issue. Don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise.