Published by the Faculty of Business, Government and Law, University of Canberra


Research and Stories through a Gendered Lens

Written by Anonymous

Editor’s note: The author of this piece has requested to publish anonymously due to the toxic nature of the online discourse around the Gaza-Israel conflict and not having the resources to deal with the reprisals. BroadAgenda supports the writer and this decision, and come to the judgement that it’s important to publish anyway. 

It was the way Layla said it that got to me. She was so matter of fact.

“They usually play checkpoint. One son will be the Israeli guard and my daughter will be the Palestinian.”

They lived in the West Bank, so playing checkpoint was normal. I had this conversation with Layla over 20 years ago at a conference on women and armed conflict. She was a young, vibrant mother and activist who was trying hard to get the participants of the conference to do more for the people of Palestine.

It’s depressing to think that all these years after I met Layla, there is still no resolution to the Palestinian issue. What’s even worse is that thousands of women and children have been killed, maimed or are barely living in absolutely tragic circumstances in the latest Israeli invasion into Gaza.

Yes. There is no question that what Hamas did was deplorable in their killing of civilians, and taking hostages. There is also no question that breaking international humanitarian law in pursuit of Hamas is equally deplorable. This should not be an issue of who is for or against Jews or Palestinians. This should be an issue of doing everything possible to protect the lives of women and children in ways which respect human rights and adhere to international humanitarian law.

War is a feminist issue.

We know that more than 75 percent of people who are displaced by armed conflict are women and children. In some refugee populations, they make up 90 percent. Wars take away livelihoods, end education, trash dreams and obliterate families. Then there are parts of life as a female which are severely impacted, like menstruation.

There are no tampons or sanitary napkins to be found in bombed neighbourhoods or when you’re on the run for your life. Pregnant? There’s no birth centre to listen to your playlist of music while you count your contractions. In fact, there are no hospitals. There is also no nutritious food to help with breastfeeding. Cooking? There’s no clean water. Let alone any food. War and starvation make good bedfellows.

In 2021, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated that the sales of arms and military services by the world’s 100 biggest defence companies was about US$592 billion (roughly AUD $906.5 billion). A tiny minority is getting rich at the expense of a great majority of women and children who are literally paying the price with their lives and limbs. Armed conflict also provides the platform on which women’s and girl’s bodies are sacrificed in the power game through rapes and abuse. The brutality of sexual violence in times of armed conflict is beyond comprehension, and hardly mentioned in so called ‘peace talks’ held by men.

When we talk about violence against women here in Australia, we should sometimes join the dots to connect our lives to that of women around the world. We live in a global system which often overrides the fundamental values which build peace and supports the vulnerable in our societies. Did you know that our Future Fund has invested $600 million into ‘defence companies’?

In other words, we are investing in the profit of companies which are selling arms which result in the killing and maiming of women and children. Why aren’t we investing in renewables and green jobs instead?

The previous Coalition government committed us, and future generations of Australians, to nuclear submarines which are estimated to cost up to $368 billion. Compare the hand wringing and brow furrowing which continually haunts the narrative on the cost of aged care and the NDIS with that of spending on defence. “HOW ARE WE GOING TO AFFORD IT?” is the constant refrain on spending on aged care and the NDIS. We see committee after committee set up to examine ways in which these essential support services should be funded, and experts tying themselves into knots trying to find taxation solutions which can be sold to the public.

The building of a strong peace culture which upholds our human right to food, shelter and a dignified life should be the basis of our economy and in deciding what our national budget should look like. If we can afford nuclear submarines, why haven’t we invested in public and social housing so we can end the housing crisis?

Academics like Cynthia Enloe have written extensively on the connection between militarism and violence against women. I highly recommend “Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics” as a great introduction to understand how entrenched the culture of militarism is and the price women pay for it.

It is difficult to watch the news of both the miseries of women and children in Gaza today, as well as the pain of Jewish families whose loved ones have been killed or are missing following their kidnapping by Hamas. The men who perpetrate the violence are not being held accountable and continue to use women and children as pawns in their deadly, zero-sum game for power and control.

We need to bring a clear-eyed view to the horrors being perpetrated on all sides and call out human rights abuses when they take place. We should not be supporting armed conflict which result in the indiscriminate killing of women and children being done on all sides. We must stand for peace.

It’s time to end war. Enough is enough.

  • Please note image at top is a stock photo/Adobe Stock. 



Sometimes a person has something powerful and important to say, but they need to stay anonymous because of a risk to their: safety (or the safety of those they love), employment or reputation. BroadAgenda doesn't publish these pieces lightly and takes them on a case by case basis.

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