Total Resistance to Military Service


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This statement was prepared by a group of women involved in the War Resister’s International and was signed by women attending the International conference on Women and Militarism, July 26 to August 1, 1980, Laurieston Hall, Laurieston, Castle Douglas, Dumfriesshire, Scotland.

We, women committed to anti-militarism and feminism, believe that total resistance to military service is the necessary role for all women challenged by the military structure in society.

We see war and violence as male attributes used to no avail over the centuries; conflicts have not been solved nor peace established. Militarism is an expression of a male structure and male violence imposed against society to the detriment of all and in particular women.

We cannot accept a passive role in society and recognise that women must emerge as a critical force challenging the established structure dominated by militarism; but we cannot relate emancipation to the same role adopted by men and reject the need to imitate them. We see our stand against violence, exploitation and injustice as the basis of our feminist pacifism and anti-militarist feminist.

Women war resisters and nonviolent activists recognise the long struggle undertaken predominantly by men supported by women in relation to their refusal to accept compulsory military service both in times of war and peace. We regard this struggle as a positive act against militarism.

We appreciate the legal steps striven for and gained by CO’s position. In most cases this has led to establishing an alternative service approved by the State in lieu of the military commitment.

Throughout this period of development and reform there has always been the total resister, both in times of war and peace, who has refused to comply with the State’s demand and rejected the alternative service granted by some nations. We respect the choice of the individual whether she or he accepts the alternative service regulations or decides voluntarily to total con-co-operation.

However, we submit that the military challenge when directed to women is different and demands a radical response – we therefore urge that women commit themselves to total resistance to military and alternative service for the following reasons:

  • total resistance as a rejection of militarism is a positive political choice whether based on moral, emotional, political or religious grounds
  • the acceptance of alternative service while showing a refusal to take part in direct military action does not and cannot change the authoritarian, hierarchical and oppressive society represented and upheld by militarism; moreover we see it as a governmental concession which undermines the radical content of conscientious objection and is in any case clouded by punitive measures which we find unacceptable
  • in most countries women are likely to be conscripted into non-combatant duties, albeit under direct military control, not greatly different from the alternative service available to some men today (administration, health …). By accepting this position, women will then free the men conscripts for concentrated combat training and will have put themselves into a supportive role
  • recognition of an alternative service implies the recognition of the structure and purpose of the military which are not instruments of emancipation. COs may have expressed a degree of awareness by rejecting the male traditional ideology of the military. But there is no such analogy for women, who would remain in their usual feminine role
  • it is equally probable that women will be called up to work in civil defence, which is likely to appeal to them because it appears to be based on humanitarian needs which reflect their traditional role as nurturers. We reject this position with equal vigour since it is only a part of the war machine and the myth of global defence.

We therefore believe that the possibility of alternative service provided for women COs cannot be accepted and that they have no alternative other than to reject any form of conscription with the military. In this way, therefore, we consider that we cannot follow the pattern of male CO history and that women here and now must take a stand of no compromise, whether we are as yet directly involved or not.

We therefore urge that women show their intention now not to co-operate with war, thereby making it clear to governments that their emancipation has no connection with militarism, which only serves to crush the individual initiative for which we strive.

We believe we must educate women to understand the implications involved not because we see women as such as the natural peacemakers but because we do not intend to follow policies that can only lead to the exploitation of the individual, to violence and to war.

Published in: Women and Conscientious Objection - An Anthology


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