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Coming Soon – 16 Days To Take Action

Nairobi, 17 November 2011 –To explore some of the deeper social structures that promote and perpetuate violence against women and girls, last year the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) launched a multi-year campaign theme on the intersections of militarism and violence against women.

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.

Militarism also privileges certain violent forms of masculinity, which often has grave consequences for the true safety and security of women, of men who do not conform to these roles, and of society as a whole.

Current world events – including military interventions, femicides, attacks on civilians participating in political change, ongoing conflicts etc. – exemplify the distinctive way in which militarism influences how we see our neighbors, our families, our public life, and other people in the world.

Over the last year CWGL has heard accounts of how this theme resonates with many activists. One activist from Mozambique expressed her concern that there could not be “Peace on Earth while there is War in the Home.”

Her comments stayed with us, and we hope this year’s theme describes the complex relationship between peace, home, and the world, and recognizes the many spaces where militarism influences our lives. Therefore, the 2011 theme slogan will be:

From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!

Building upon the information gathered from participants during the 2010 campaign, this year’s 16 Days Campaign will delve further into five issues that were identified as priorities for those working on the intersections of violence against women and militarism:

Bringing together women, peace, and human rights movements to challenge militarism: For decades, women’s movements, human rights movements, and peace movements have advocated for the use of peaceful strategies to end conflict and violence and to achieve women’s rights.

These movements challenge the social structures that allow violence and discrimination to continue. While we may have different approaches to bringing about a more just world, advocacy in all of these areas is inherently tied to challenging militarism and putting forward a feminist alternative.

Civil society plays a crucial role in pushing for more expansive understandings of security that emphasize peace and the fulfillment of human rights as a way to achieve genuine security for all. There are many international tools and mechanisms that can help us hold our governments accountable for protecting and respecting rights (e.g. the Beijing Platform for Action, CEDAW, international humanitarian law, the Human Rights Council, the Security Council’s Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960 on Women, Peace, and Security, and more). These approaches and tools provide entry points for social movements to reframe security as a human rights issue instead of a military issue.

Proliferation of small arms and their role in domestic violence: Domestic violence is a reality in every country of the world. This violence becomes even more dangerous when guns are present in the home, as they can be used to threaten, injure, or kill women and children.

According to the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) Women’s Network, women are three times more likely to die violently if there is a gun in the house. Small arms are also one of the major causes of civilian casualties in modern conflicts.

Not only do small arms facilitate violence against women, but due to their association with violent masculinity, they often perpetuate violence itself. Regardless of the context – conflict or peace – or immediate cause of the violence, the presence of guns invariably has the same effect: more guns mean more danger for women. Consequently, this year we will also look at the sale, trade, proliferation, and misuse of small arms.

Sexual violence in and after conflict: Rape is often used as a tactic of war to drive fear and to humiliate or punish women and their communities. Sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations is used to reinforce gendered and political hierarchies.

While there has been more attention to this crime in recent years, sexual violence remains a major barrier to women’s safety and reintegration, as its effects are physically, psychologically, and socially devastating.

Political violence against women, including Pre/During/Post-election violence: The use of violence to achieve political goals has specific gendered implications. From electoral violence that targets women with sexual violence to harassment or “sexuality baiting” of female protesters and political candidates, open misogyny in public and political spaces results in violations of women’s human rights.

Even when women play crucial roles in peaceful revolutions, they may be excluded from political roles in the new government.

Governments that use force against their own civilians, suspend rule of law in an “emergency” period or use “anti-terrorism” laws to suppress pro-democracy movements or to silence human rights defenders also employ militaristic ideologies that attempt to pass off violence as “security” measures.

Sexual and gender-based violence committed by state agents, particularly the police or military: Even in places where there is no recognized conflict, militarized violence against civilians by uniformed personnel takes place.

Militarism tends to privilege a particular form of aggressive masculinity, and sexual violence is one tool that might be used to assert power over others.

Individuals in positions of authority may believe they can commit crimes with impunity, and this is exemplified by high rates of sexual violence within the military, threats by police to women reporting cases of violence or assault, violations committed by peace-keeping forces, and violence against women living and working around military bases.

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