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The war economy and gender-based violence

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25 November marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. This year’s theme is “From peace in the home to peace in the world: make education safe for all,” with the campaign centring on militarism and the right to education, including how violent conflict can destroy educational opportunities, for girls in particular.

Militarism is one the main threats to education. As WILPF notes, the recent conflict in Syria shows the devastating educational costs of warfare and violent conflict. As ‘Small Hands Heavy Burden’, a UNICEF and Save the Children report from July 2015, notes, before the war Syria had a reported 90 percent literacy rate. Now, tragically, near to 3 million Syrian children are out of education. Inside of Syria about a quarter of schools are out of use either because they have been damaged or destroyed, or are now used for other purposes, such as shelters for the elderly and wounded.

The use of explosive weapons in populated areas is a major cause of civilian death in Syria, as well as destruction of civilian objects. Who benefits from such horrific bombing and shelling in towns and cities? "Those profiting from the production of arms maintain the system of war," writes Reaching Critial Will's Ray Acheson in an article published by the Women Peacemakers Program as part of the 16 Days Campaign. "They have turned militarism into a way of thinking about, responding to, and investing in the world. The default response to security challenges has become military intervention. As activists for peace as well as for gender equality and women’s rights, we need to seek and articulate effective strategies that challenge war profiteering and privatization."

Exploring the evolution of the war economy, private militaries, and corporate contributions to conflict, this article examines the intertwined histories of war and patriarchy and recommends strategies for change. WILPF recommends challenging and stopping investments in militarism, the arms trade, the culture of militarism, impunity for private military contractors and corporations, and building an economy and culture of peace and justice.

As the 16 Days Campaign continues, it is critical for those seeking to prevent gender-based violence to look at the weapons used to fuel this violence and those generating profit from them. A strategy of prevention must include a challenge to militarism, war, and war profiteering.