A Feminist Vision of Genuine Security and Creating a Culture of Life

The proclamation event of the IWNAM Feminist Vision of Genuine Security on April 16/17 is based on the statement below:

A Feminist Vision of Genuine Security and Creating a Culture of Life
by the International Women’s Network against Militarism

April 1, 2021

The International Women’s Network Against Militarism was started in 1997 by feminist peace activists from Okinawa, the Philippines, South Korea, continental United States and mainland Japan to address problems caused by the US military presence in these areas by sharing the experiences of women and children living alongside US military bases – or former bases. Over the years, the Network has grown to include feminist peace activists from Puerto Rico, Guåhan (Guam) and Hawai’i who introduced Indigenous anti-colonial perspectives.

We realize the need to articulate a feminist vision of genuine security in
opposition to military security. State security must be aligned with people’s
security and not undermine it. As it stands, people remain in need of clean
water, food, housing, and medical care. The massive militarization of the globe is rooted in creating vulnerability and insecurity. As a result, state leaders have placed great focus on the development of the military, with the United States taking the lead in military spending globally.

We define militarism as a system of beliefs, political priorities and economic investments. Militarism includes the activities of corporations that produce and sell weapons, the role of state militaries–including state-sanctioned violence, martial law, repression, extra-judicial killings, military coups, and military dominance within governments–as well as non-state militias. Militarism is shored up by patriarchy and reinforces violent masculinity. Military sexual violence is a manifestation of this synergy between militarism and patriarchy.

Militarism cannot solve the coronavirus pandemic, the global climate crisis, or poverty and hunger caused by current economic policies and the actions of totalitarian governments. Militarized police violence, especially against migrants and other disenfranchised communities all evidence the fact that militarism and war do not and cannot provide genuine security for people or the planet.

Genuine security requires the following guarantees: that the environment can sustain life; people’s basic needs are met; human dignity is respected; people’s sovereignty is assured; and society is organized so as to prevent avoidable harms. We expand on each of these points below.

1. Safeguarding the Environment to Sustain Life

A sustainable environment is key to genuine security. Militarism and preparations for war take land that could be used for growing food and other generative uses. Military bases and operations have polluted land and water with oils, solvents, jet fuel, herbicides, and other hazards. Wars have reduced land to rubble and destroyed essential infrastructure like power lines, irrigation systems, and sewers, most recently in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, military use of fossil fuels and creation of carbon contribute to climate change.

Sustaining the environment means returning occupied lands to people who have been displaced- most of whom are indigenous peoples such as in Okinawa, Hawaii, Guåhan, and Diego Garcia (Indian Ocean). This also entails cleaning up environmental contamination at current and former military sites, such as Kaho’olawe (HI), Vieques (Puerto Rico), Maehyangri (South Korea), Angeles and Olongapo (Philippines), Farallon de Medillina (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), Bikini, Enewetak, and Rongelap atolls (Marshall Islands). Victims of military contamination need health care and compensation for all they have suffered. This includes the multi-generational impact on the planet and people that have been destroyed by nuclear tests and by the use of nuclear weapons in war. Genuine security involves supporting people who are farming sustainably, protecting land and water, and restoring wetlands and fishponds- efforts that are often led by Indigenous peoples who are reestablishing the infrastructure for food security.

2. Meeting Basic Human Needs

Everyone needs clean water, affordable housing, access to food, health care, and education to be assured survival and well-being. Meeting these basic needs should be recognized as the fundamental security and should be the priority of security policies of all countries. Militarized security has allocated overwhelmingly more resources to maintaining and even expanding military activities as well as developing lethal weapons including those that kill masses of people like nuclear weapons. In 2019 world spending on wars and preparations for war reached $1,917 billion, or $1.9 trillion, an obscene amount of money by any measure.1 The United States—which maintains around 1,000 bases overseas—spent 38% of that staggering total. This was almost 50% of the US discretionary budget and more than the next 10 countries combined,2 or approximately $2 billion dollars a day. Many other countries spend more on their militaries than on health care or education. Limited resources allocated to basic needs have made most people’s lives insecure.

The COVID pandemic is a clear evidence of the fundamental failure of militarized state security. It has revealed the wrong priorities for resource allocation and has shown the limitations of the current system to provide for basic human needs. The pandemic has exposed the huge inequalities in wealth and income, and the severe limitations of current systems of care. Caring for children, elders, those who are sick, and people with physical and mental disabilities falls disproportionately on women’s shoulders. Often this work is not paid, or wages are low. The economy must be reorganized to provide for people’s basic needs rather than profit-making. Government budgets—in other words, taxpayers’ money—must be redirected from the police and the military to unmet human needs. For example, education should be invested in training youth in “care” economies, and to not funnel them into militarized or “punishment” economies.

3. Respect for Human Dignity

Right wing nationalist groups and governments use systems of hatred, violence and discrimination based on people’s racial and ethnic identities, immigration status, gender expression, sexual orientation and political beliefs. Respecting human dignity and integrity means learning about each other’s histories and experiences, and using media (in all its forms) to show people’s humanity rather than empty caricatures and stereotypes. It also means respecting women, gender nonconforming, and trans people and working toward ending their second-class status in many societies.

When people are a vital part of the governmental decision-making processes and have prior and informed consent, and are not just treated as tokens, respect for human dignity is apparent. To this end, laws and policies that uphold human rights must be in place and they must be implemented to ensure justice and human dignity. Women, trans, and queer people have the right to control our own bodies, free from harm and sexual violence. Respecting the human dignity of women, trans, and queer people means resisting the sexual violence that is integral to military structures and values.

4. Respect for Peoples’ Sovereignty

Countries should be able to develop foreign policies independent of the United States. This should include the United States respecting others’ sovereignty and culture. Militarism is the brute force used to colonize peoples and to exploit their resources. This includes the subjugation of peoples in order to occupy their lands, the exploitation of natural resources, and the intentional imposition of one’s ways of life on another. Assimilation policies and practices are in violation of international laws and norms that honor and respect peoples’ right to
self-determination. In addition, neocolonial relationships promote the continued colonization of peoples and their lands, which violate peoples’ sovereignty.

Indigenous peoples (IPs) have suffered the disrespect of their sovereignty with land dispossession for the use of military bases. According to Article 30 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: “ Military activities shall not take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples…” IPs from throughout the world, including those in Australia, the Americas, Guåhan, Hawaiʻi, Okinawa, and the Philippines, have the collective right to the self-determination of their lands, territories, and resources by providing free, prior, and informed consent.

5. Preventing Avoidable Harm

Security is still largely characterized in policies as protection from external threats and protecting “us” from “them.” State security policies have long focused on war as the threat and made us believe that the national security policies need to prepare for warfare which is argued as inevitable in real politics.

This notion has allowed for the military to be given unchecked power and resources, and has sanctioned violent masculine power as superior and necessary. War as a result of competing power can be avoided if more efforts are sought for diplomacy. If we can prevent war, we can prevent civilian casualties and save the lives of soldiers. Diplomacy should be considered first and the only choice.

Whereas assuring security should mean protection of people, a fundamental question should be asked as to what makes people vulnerable and how to prevent them. The global pandemic of COVID-19 has revealed that massive military force does not protect us and has shown what we are vulnerable to. Governments have allowed the coronavirus to spread, making sure that vulnerable people—especially people of color in the Global North and in the Global South – suffer and die. So-called “natural disasters” like storms, heat waves, and floods, are often caused by corporate activities with support from governments. Climate crisis can be changed with political will and redistribution of resources to prevent and respond to natural disasters. Sexual violence can be eliminated with increased respect for human dignity. Demilitarization would eliminate military sexual violence against people in communities around US bases, and also within the military. Military policies are not only insufficient but actually create insecurity. Much of the harm people currently experience could be avoided if societies were not organized around military dependence and over-investment.

Based on these principles we call for demilitarization and peace and an end to military expansion globally. This includes:

Developing national, independent foreign policies that promote peace, people, and protection of the planet.

– Centering diplomacy as the primary mechanism to address international tensions as an alternative to war and militarism.

– Cancelling major multinational military operations across the US Department of Defense-designated “Indo-Pacific” region, such as RIMPAC (Hawai’i); Foal Eagle and Key Resolve (South Korea); Valiant Shield and Cope North (Guåhan/Hawai’i); Talisman Saber (Australia); Balikatan (Philippines); Cobra Gold (Thailand); and Malabar (Australia, India, and Japan).

– Bringing home troops stationed in foreign countries.

– Ending the killing of innocent civilians caught in the cross-fires of military operations.

– Cancelling military build-ups in Guåhan, Okinawa, Hawai’i

– Bringing justice to victims/survivors of military sexual violence.

– Cleaning up environmental contamination in former and current military spaces to safe standards for human life.

– Halting massive military recruitment in poor communities.

– Enacting laws that fund educational programs to create opportunities for youth from poor communities to have thriving livelihoods.

– Decolonizing all non-self-governing territories and respecting the right of all peoples to self-determination

– Ending police violence and brutality.

– Upholding the respect for peoples’ sovereignty in all realms of decisionmaking.

– Moving funds from military and police budgets and investing communities including: education, health care, housing, social service programs for all.

The International Women’s Network Against Militarism stands firmly in this framework of genuine security and in solidarity with others toward these goals.



  1. https://www.pgpf.org/chart-archive/0053_defense-comparison