Stop the war on women

February 13, 2002

By Andrea Miles

With the commencement of bombing in Afghanistan, US President George Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair started proclaiming that the fall of the Taliban regime would be a victory for women's rights. If this were the case perhaps women in the West could sleep a little easier knowing that their sisters in Afghanistan now had rights equivalent to men.

But where were these champions of women's rights 20 years ago when right-wing forces were endeavoring to remove an Afghan government committed to the education and empowerment of women? Where were they when the mujaheddin overthrew this Afghan government and later when the Taliban brutally took power? Why did the "feminists" in US government grant the Taliban regime US$40 million as late as May 2001? And how "liberated" are the innocent Afghan women who lost family members or who died from the indiscriminate US bombing of their country?

The reality is that Bush and Blair will only "defend" women's rights when they can cynically use the issue to justify their campaign for political and military domination of the Third World.

With the fall of the Taliban, women's rights are still not guaranteed. Some leaders of the Northern Alliance have indicated their opposition to any substantial change in the status of women while independent women's organisations were barred from participating in the UN sponsored transitional negotiations. Almost all Afghan women still wear their burqa solely to protect themselves from reprisals. Bush and Blair, however, have not raised a single criticism of the sexism of the incoming Afghan administration.

The "war on terrorism" has become the Bush administration's flimsy justification to implement its goal of imposing US political and economic domination of the world and to attempt to speed up the process of neo-liberal globalisation. This amounts to a protracted economic and political war on the Third World.

The enforced privatisation of public utilities and the lifting of subsidies for basic foods such as rice and for cooking fuels are central elements of the neo-liberal program. They are already having a huge impact on the lives of millions of people.

Women's second-class status in society and their still subordinate role in the family (in spite of the gains in the advanced capitalist countries of the second wave of the feminist movement), means that ultimately women will bear the brunt of these attacks, pushing the gains of women back further and further.

The "war on women" is one women experience both as the result of military wars of aggression, and as a result of an insidious, ideological and economic war, being waged by the governments of the world on behalf of the interests of the capitalist class.

Opposing the bipartisan policy of mandatory detention of refugees and asylum-seekers, themselves the victims of neo-liberal globalisation and war, is something which all those who support women's rights must take up.

Stopping "the war on women" in all its forms is a demand which is being raised throughout Australia on International Women's Day in March. Get active in the struggle to defend women's rights, to oppose the US "war on terrorism", and the Australian government's war on refugees — march on International Women's Day!

From Green Left Weekly, February 13, 2002.
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