The Feminist Peace Network is once again participating in the observance of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence which takes place from November 25th – December 10th. The Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University runs a website that has numerous resources about this campaign, including action guides and a calendar of events. Please especially note the Global Day of Action on November 29th. The theme of this year’s observance will be:
Structures of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence Against Women
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign uses the 16 days between International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25 November) and International Human Rights Day (10 December) to reinforce that eliminating all forms of violence against women is a human rights issue and that the act of perpetrating violence against women is a human rights violation. The 16 Days Campaign brings the human rights framework to the heart of its work and utilizes it to ensure that both state and non-state actors are held accountable for acts of violence against women.
November 25th was declared International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women at the first Feminist Encuentro for Latin America and the Caribbean held in Bogota, Colombia, July 18-21, 1981. The “feminist encuentros” are conferences of feminists from Latin America who come together every 2-3 years in a different Latin American country in order to exchange experiences and to reflect upon the state of the women’s movement. At that first Encuentro, women systematically denounced all forms of gender violence from domestic battery to rape and sexual harassment to state violence including torture and abuse of women political prisoners. November 25th was chosen to commemorate the violent assassination of the Mirabal sisters (Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa) on November 25, 1960 by the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. In 1999, the United Nations officially recognized November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
About this year’s theme:
This year marks the 20th 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, and with this important landmark, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) is considering new ways to utilize the campaign for transformative change. Year after year, new partners join the 16 Days Campaign to bring local, national, and global attention to the various forms of violence that women face. The attention that gender-based violence has received in international forums is a testimony to the powerful actions of women’s rights activists around the world. Yet, despite this increased awareness, women continue to experience violations in alarming numbers and new forms of violence are emerging. We, as defenders of women’s human rights, have a responsibility to look more closely at the structures in place that permit gender-based violence to exist and persist. After much consultation with activists, organizations, and experts from around the world, militarism has emerged as one of the key structures that perpetuates violence.
While there are many different ways to define militarism, our working definition outlines militarism as an ideology that creates a culture of fear and supports the use of violence, aggression, or military interventions for settling disputes and enforcing economic and political interests. It is a psychology that often has grave consequences for the true safety and security of women and of society as a whole. Militarism is a distinctive way of looking at the world; it influences how we see our neighbors, our families, our public life, and other people in the world. To embrace militarism is to presume that everyone has enemies and that violence is an effective way to solve problems. To leave militaristic ways of thinking unchallenged is to leave certain forms of masculinity privileged, to leave global hierarchies of power firmly in place, to grant impunity to wartime perpetrators of violence against women. To roll back militarism is to inspire more expansive ideas about genuine security, to bring more women into public life, to create a world built not on the competitive sale of weapons, but on authentic relations of trust and cooperation.
There is a need to address militaristic beliefs in all of our societies. Militarism has material and institutional, as well as cultural and psychological consequences that are more difficult to measure. Wars, internal conflicts, and violent repressions of political and social justice movements – all of which are a result of a culture of militarism – have a particular and often disproportionate impact on women. Rape is used as a tactic of war to drive fear and to humiliate women and their communities. But sexual violence is just one form of violence that women and girls suffer throughout the continuum of violence before, during and after conflict has ostensibly ended. Militarism neither ends nor begins in warzones, nor does it confine itself to the public sphere. The families of militarized men and women may experience violence in their homes where ‘war crimes’ and armed domestic violence are hidden from public view, and women who serve in the military are just as easily victims of sexual assault by their fellow soldiers. Even places that are not experiencing conflict directly are not exempt from militarism: they send troops, produce and sell weapons, and invest in the militaries of foreign governments rather than supporting development efforts. These governments have skewed priorities, spending huge percentages of their budgets on the military and arms rather than on social services, such as education, health care, job security, and development that would yield real security for women. For these reasons, the international theme for the 2010 16 Days Campaign will be Structures of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence Against Women.
The Take Back The Tech campaign runs concurrently with the 16 Days campaign and FPN will be posting actions from that campaign as well. Finally, listen to these inspiring words from Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai about the campaign: