In depth

Central Articles

Peace: an ethical imperative

Olga Amparo Sánchez Gómez
Corporación Casa de la Mujer, Bogotà. The peaceful path for Colombian women
Olga Amparo Sánchez Gómez

Olga Amparo Sánchez

"Historically, women have dismantled the idea of confrontation by sitting down to talk with all parties involved. It is much more important to sit down at a table and talk than to sit in front of a grave and cry"
Platform of Palestinian women artists - 2009

"We who lost the peace" is the title of a beautiful text, written by the Spanish feminist Llum Quiñonero, which talks about winning during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 and provides a cross-section of Spanish society at that time. The author uses the testimony of four women who narrate their political, cultural and social experiences in "dimensions that are sometimes little known, which shed light on the various horizons of collective experience, creativity, initiative and the capacity for civic involvement by women" (Llum Quiñonero, 2005:11).
"We who lost the peace" is a text that since it came into my hands, has made me wonder whether Colombian feminists, or those who write history, will in a few years time say: "we who lost the peace." I prefer to think, dream and act, in order to be able to say in the not too distant future: "we who won the peace."

From the stance we assume to win the peace and oppose war, we declare with all our energy and strength: "we who are winning the peace". Allow me to dream and believe in these adverse times. We feminists are winning the peace because we are still constructing a new ethic based on a feminist perspective, to highlight the hegemonic discourses and practices that reproduce and justify relations of oppression and subordination between women and men, between regions, between ethnic groups, and which create arguments that aim, on "democratic" grounds, to depoliticise the causes and consequences of war, poverty and violence against women.

The feminist ethic is based on conditions of oppression and subordination between women and men, based on individual and collective political and social practices. This feminist ethic questions the patriarchal construction of the "woman," and calls for consciousness of conditions of exploitation, discrimination, alienation, violence and exclusion towards women and towards other exploited and excluded groups. This feminist ethic questions violence as a means of dealing with public and private conflicts, the militarization of men's and women's lives, the immoral distribution of resources and wealth and the annihilation of ecosystems, among other issues.

This ethic can lead us to reject complicity in a patriarchal pact that is nourished by the sexual division of labour, and to work for justice and integrity between women and men. It is an ethic which thinks in terms of a new rise in our lives and leads us towards a different paradigm of freedom. It is a feminist ethic that includes respect, honesty, transparency, mutual trust, flexibility, and the spirit of cooperation.
In order to be able to build a humanitarian, free, egalitarian, just society, that is decent for women and men, it is necessary to be constantly engaged in self-criticism, and to deconstruct attitudes and prejudices. It is necessary to construct values that end the fear, solitude and silence demanded of opponents and women, in order to maintain the patriarchal order and war as a means to resolve conflict. These are new values that involve the voice of women, the oppressed and subjected and their demands as an act of rebellion against this exclusive, and warlike and militaristic system.

Publicly and politically committed women are the target for sanctions and political indoctrination, which basically aim to control us using a single model, which internalises the threat of fear, which teaches us not to rebel.

Engaging in feminist politics does not only involve participating in struggles to eradicate inequalities, injustice and exclusion; it is also women's task to deconstruct the relationships of oppression and subordination between men and women and to build alliances to predicate violence against themselves and against others, to become the subjects and objects of agreements, to be spokespersons speaking with their own voice, and for this voice to be valued, i.e. to be women who agree on a new order, to be political subjects, to deconstruct the patriarchal pact based on a feminist ethic.

Engaging in feminist politics in favour of peace involves declaring ourselves to be conscientious objectors, in disobedience to the patriarchal mandates of war, nationalism and militarism. As feminists we have the ethical obligation to rebel against all types of patriarchal authority. We are contributing to the eradication of sexism and militarism with what we do publicly and in private, with words, actions and symbols.

It is incumbent on us to demand dialogue, which is the least that we owe the innocent victims of this immoral war. It is essential that those involved sit down to negotiate, despite so much blood having been shed. This is the definitive moment for beginning a process of exchange that opens up spaces for political negotiation. We must foster a real peace process and one that first means an end to confrontation. Peace cannot be based on impunity: the violence must end, but there must be sanctions for all the crimes that have been committed.

We must once again take to the streets to demand, to protest, to face the terror and fear through which they want to silence us, and do so now because we all deserve a different life. Because we want to have a present free of violence and public and private wars. Taking to the streets as a means of protecting the sacred right to rebellion is today an imperative because we must make our resistance to war and to militarist politics visible, and we must make a commitment to solidarity between women beyond ethnic frontiers.

We believe that there can be no peace if not everyone is able to express themselves and achieve their aspirations in a fair, free and egalitarian world. There can be no peace while half of humanity, women, is oppressed and prevented from developing fully.