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War is violence against women” say feminist groups in the Philippines

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, feminist groups in the Philippines rallied against war and US militarism

Filipina feminist groups rallied on November 25 to demand an end to violence against women and war.

On the first day of a 18-day global campaign to end violence against women, feminist groups in the Philippines highlighted the call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza as a step towards a permanent solution to the question of Palestine. November 25 is commemorated across the globe as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

“War is violence against women. It is as clear as day in the ongoing hostage and prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas that women are disproportionately victimized in war. The history of conflicts reveals this ugly truth. Thus, we call for a stop to the war in Palestine and elsewhere. And demand a just peace,” argued Judy Ann Miranda, secretary general of Partido Manggagawa (PM). PM is among the groups that participated in an activity on November 25.

A hundred women leaders from various organizations that comprise the World March of Women-Pilipinas marched to the grounds of the Commission of Human Rights today for a rousing and festive program to launch the violence against women campaign. Community assemblies in several working class areas in Metro Manila followed later in the day.


Feminist groups march in Manila, Philippines.

The launch of the campaign served as an opportunity for women to raise the urgent call for solidarity to the people of Palestine. In the statement released for the event, the World March of Women-Pilipinas, stated that “Israeli forces through persistent bombings on Palestinian communities, kill[ed] more than 14,000 Palestinians. Most hurt were women and children, as hospitals were also bombed. World March of Women members in Palestine were [also among those] attacked.”

“The so-called humanitarian pause should give way to a sustained ceasefire in both Gaza and the West Bank. A permanent ceasefire then enables political negotiations to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” Miranda explained. The women’s groups’ call for solidarity with Palestine is part of a sustained advocacy by social movements, trade unions, human rights organizations, and grassroots communities in the Philippines.

Next week, on November 30, which is a traditional day of mobilization for workers in the Philippines, trade unions along with other civil society groups will also underscore the demand for a permanent ceasefire and a stop to the genocide in Palestine. On November 25, a rally was held in Manila by Muslim and Christian organizations together with progressive groups. The mobilization was billed as a march for peace and justice in Palestine.

All these solidarity actions build upon earlier activities by numerous organizations in different parts of the country, including in the southern island of Mindanao which has a substantial Muslim population. Among those actions was a rally outside the Catholic Church in Manila last November 4 which was a local response to the call by the International Peoples’ Assembly for a global day of action for Palestine.

“The drums of war are beating so hard that they are not only deafening but are inciting harm and violence against women,” according to the World March of Women-Pilipinas. It added that “Historically, women and children suffer the most during war in the form of hunger, sexual assault, physical violence including unjust imprisonment as hostages of warring parties, loss of home and of family members.”

Miranda also pointed to threats of war in her own region and averred that “Women also do not want to be caught in the middle of the US and China conflict. We call for a peaceful solution to the West Philippine Sea issue. Through negotiations among the claimants, we want to guarantee the right of fishers, Filipinos, and other nationalities, to gainful livelihood in what should be treated as common fishing grounds.”

Tensions in the South China Sea are escalating with the United States forming various military alliances such as the Quad and the AUKUS in a bid to contain China and maintain control over the busy shipping lanes in the region. The Quad is an alliance between the US, Japan, Australia and India while AUKUS unites Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Recently, the US avowed that it will respond to an attack on Philippine ships in the disputed sea according to terms of a mutual defense treaty. Meanwhile, talks are ongoing for a visiting forces agreement with Japan.

The threat of war in the South China Sea has become a convenient pretext for an influx of American soldiers and weapons to the Philippines. In 1991, US military bases in the country were kicked out in the culmination of a long struggle led by progressive movements to assert national sovereignty and an independent foreign policy. However, the war on terror opened the door for the return of the American military as so-called “visiting forces.”

The feminist groups recalled that prostitution and abuse of women and girls flourished around the sites of the former US military bases in the Philippines. Since the return of US troops in the country, they have been involved in two separate incidents involving the rape of a woman and the murder of a transgender woman. All of the accused soldiers are now back in the US after controversial decisions of acquittal or pardon.

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