Was in Kosova - The Logic of Patriarchy

by autonomous Women’s Groups in Belgrade, Serbia

Women’s autonomous groups in Belgrade are communicating publicly in order to condemn the Serbian regime’s violence in Kosova. The war in Kosova has begun. The violence of the Serbian regime is the continuation of the apartheid policy which the regime has applied for the past ten years. And the present situation shows that territory is sacred, not human life.

We Start from the Patriarchy

Patriarchy has been the mechanism for maintaining men’s violence against women for thousands of years. The women’s movement is unmasking the ideology that serves violent men to perpetuate violence, so that women and children cannot be helped from outside to stop the violence. Patriarchy considers men’s violence in the family as a ‘family private matter’. This ideology of privacy permits violence in all other domains of society. When the SOS hotline for women and children calls for police to intervene, a violent husband standing next to his bruised wife claims: “This is my wife, it is my issue”. Policemen, with male understanding, confirm that it is a ‘family matter’. That is exactly the model for how the ‘first man’ of the ruling regime leads the war in Kosova: “Kosovo is an inner problem of Serbia”. About which he alone decides. In fact, Kosovo has been an international open problem for many years. One of the means of domination by the white establishment in South Africa which led to the policy of apartheid and discrimination against black people, was the pronouncement that the apartheid was their private matter.

We Start from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

During the year that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by more than 150 members of the UN, we recall that this declaration was issued precisely in order to prevent the possibility of abuse by official regimes (as in World Wars I and II) to torture and kill their citizens. The Universal Declaration claims that the breaking of every human right is an international issue. The confiscation of an Albanian’s passport at the Yugoslav border when he returns from work in Switzerland, heading back ‘home’ to Serbia, is the same international issue as wife battering, abused children, the consequences of sanctions, forced drafts, torture in the police station, sexual harassment at work, incest: it is a violation of human rights.

Why are We Speaking Publicly?

The women’s movement and feminist theory knows the mechanism of exclusion of the Other. Women, the universal discriminated-against gender, know that male violence against women is the model of every violence against those seen as an enemy. In Serbia the model of ‘the Other as an enemy’ was constructed by a man who has ruled for the past ten years. We saw that from the beginning of the war that ‘the Other as an enemy’ was his policy: first ‘the Other’ was the Slovenes, then Croats, then the Muslims, and now the Albanians and Montenegrins. Very soon they will be from Vojvodina and Sumadija.

Notwithstanding him or the new states, women will still be an object of violence, if we do not organize ourselves. That is why we are publicly speaking. Women’s autonomous groups are based on feminist politics, that the private is political. We work to end all kinds of discrimination; first, discrimination against women. We refuse all kinds of violence, especially the violence practiced by the stronger against the weaker.

It is less important how many states there will be formed, and on which territory, but it is very important that no human right is abused. It is important for us to have the right to be different — without which there is no civil society.

We Support Peace and Justice

We support women’s groups in Kosovo and in Serbia which promote women’s human rights and nonviolent communication. We support the peace movement in Kosova and Serbia. We support legal initiatives which will outlaw all (written and unwritten) discriminatory laws in Serbia against Albanians in Kosova, including the state reproductive policy that legitimizes hatred against Albanians, by paying only Serb women for a third child. We support those who want international mediation, because after ten years of exhausting betrayal and torture of the Albanian people, the Serbian regime cannot be trusted. We support disloyalty to the Serbian regime: refusal to be drafted, deserters, the right of an individual to conscientious objection.

If the war in Kosova expands, no matter with which armies, men’s violence against women will be intensified: rape in war, rape in refugee camps, prostitution, sexual trafficking with women, violence in families, ethnic cleansing in mixed marriages, sexual harassment, incest. Every war makes social and private relations more patriarchal and legalizes the militarism, which means that the status of women decreases and hate against women increases.

Women in Black Against War, Autonomous Women’s Center Against Sexual Violence, Feminist Publishers 94 Center for Women’s Studies, Belgrade Women’s Lobby, Belgrade, May 1998

“Kosovo ‘s destiny hangs by a thread—don’t let it fall! “ MIR/IFOR branch in Italy, started a postcard campaign to European Union leaders in 1996 to support of a nonviolent solution in Kosova.