A few weeks ago, women in Pakistan whose husbands or relatives had gone missing blamed the US w'ar against terror' for the enforced disappearances of loved ones. The phenomenon felt so close to the Philippines. It is not strange to imagine the pain the women are undergoing and their struggle to pick up the pieces of their lives. I remember writing the first scene of my novel in 2008. It was an emotional, gut-wrenching response to the disappearance of two female students, one of them pregnant, from the state university. In the Philippines, enforced disappearances are related to the government’s war against leftist rebels. What is striking, both in Pakistan and the Philippines, is the pervasiveness of militarism and its impact on women’s lives. With recent developments in US-Philippine relations, enforced disappearances as a consequence of the 'war on terror' may soon become a chilling reality. Militarism has recently gained traction because of policy pronouncements by the Obama administration on its intention to increase US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. The US is boosting Philippine defense aid to $144 million, reflecting an increase of more than $20 million. Money for the military also pours into countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, and even Myanmar. It is not surprising, therefore, that the theme of many actions in this year’s International Day of Women is about militarism/militarization, specifically US military expansionism. Emerging at the forefront of the campaigns against militarism are women, especially in Asia and Latin America. The theme of the March 8 action in Manila is “Women against US Military Expansion in the Philippines and Pacific.” Women from around the world who met in Puerto Rico last month declared that "it is time to evaluate the growing military threat and develop strategies to counter the impact of militarism, military contamination, imperialism and systems of oppression and exploitation based on gender, race, class, nationality or sexual orientation." Militarism/militarization is a feminist cause. It is not only about soldiers fighting "enemies of democracy" or about national defense issues. Military might impacts on people’s lives, especially on women’s lives. Militarism exists and persists because of the use of force, which is not just about fighting enemies of the state. Militarism is an instrument that creates and supports a culture of violence, the same violence that is behind rape, assault on women’s bodies and minds and domestic abuse and discrimination. It is time for women to stand up and stand their ground, not only for missing loved ones. Clarissa V. Militante is coordinator of the Philippines/Southeast Asia Program of Focus on the Global South. Her first novel 'Different Countries' was long-listed in the 2009 Man Asia Literary Prize and was one of the five finalists in the 2011 Madrigal Gonzales Best First Book Award in the Philippines.
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