Published on Tuesday, December 2, 2003 by the Madison Capital Times / Wisconsin
US Contributes to the Marginalization of Women Worldwide
by Maya Cole and Diane Farsetta
"It is painful to hear some Western leaders and media speak frequently about the 'liberation' of Afghanistan. Contrary to the aspirations of our people and the expectations of the world community, the Northern Alliance - the brethren-in-creed of the Taliban - are once again in power and are generously supported by the U.S. government."
The face of war - hidden by administration officials and their media accomplices - is female. Ninety percent of war casualties are civilians; 80 percent of these are women and children.
Women in war zones are routinely raped, pushed into prostitution, sold into sexual and domestic slavery, and traded as chattel. Indira Patel of the British Women's National Commission says this is no accident: "Attacks on women and sexual torture may function as a proxy to attacking the culture and honor of the entire society. This form of torture is extremely effective."
By normalizing war, the United States is contributing to the marginalization of women worldwide. The United Nations' Beijing Declaration from the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 states: "An environment that maintains world peace and promotes and protects human rights, democracy and the peaceful settlement of disputes ... is an important factor in the advancement of women."
Our country is so far from promoting peace and equality, however, that major feminist organizations recently gave the Bush administration failing grades on global women's issues. Their report (at www.wglobalscorecard.org) notes:
The United States maintains an appearance of support for women's political participation, but has yet to ratify the U.N. Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and ranks 60th in the world for women's representation in national legislatures.
The United States is trying to create the world's largest free trade zone, the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Trade liberalization has worsened the lot of the poor - mostly women - around the globe. The FTAA would favor corporate economic interests and crush labor rights, social services and national sovereignty in 34 countries.
War abroad also translates into a war against poor women and women of color at home. After its Poor People's March for Economic Human Rights this past summer, Philadelphia's Kensington Welfare Rights Union reflected: "Since (the Rev. Martin Luther) King's assassination in 1968, economic conditions for most Americans have gotten progressively worse. Homelessness and joblessness have reached heights not seen since the Great Depression. ...
"At the same time, our economy has generated historically unprecedented amounts of wealth. Even more so now than in King's time, issues of economic human rights are not problems of scarcity, but crises of morality and political will."
Women are not just victims of war, but emissaries of peace. The United Nations' experience helping war-torn nations build democratic systems led the Security Council to pass Resolution 1325, which recognizes the vital role of women in building a "sustainable peace."
The U.S.-supported, nearly all-male transitional authorities in Afghanistan and Iraq aren't just unrepresentative - they're also less likely to succeed. Resolution 1325 stresses "the importance of (women's) equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security."
Madison Women for Peace, www.madwomen.org, was formed in March 2003, as the Bush administration prepared to invade Iraq, to challenge crises of morality and political will and to spread the word that war is violence against women. We are honored to participate in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, to strengthen the work of local organizations and continue our solidarity with women around the world.
Maya Cole and Diane Farsetta are founding members of Madison Women for Peace. Cole is also active in the group Mothers Acting Up; she has three young children. Farsetta is also active with the East Timor Action Network, and is research director for the Center for Media and Democracy.
Copyright 2003 The Capital Times