Always disobedient, and still in the streets...

Women in black - 30 years of resistance

9th october 1991 we took to the streets of Belgrade for the first time - that is when we began non- violent resistance to the war and the policies of the Serbian regime. So far, we have organized about 2,500 street actions. We are still in the streets ...
Women in Black / WiB is an activist group and network of feminist-anti-militarist orientation, consisting of women, but also men of different generational and ethnic backgrounds, educational levels, social status, lifestyles and sexual choices.


A Feminist - Antimilitarist Approach to Security



The concept of "national" or state security, as it exists in western states with developed democracies as well as in states with incomplete democratic institutions—like Serbia—is based on the power of the state. That is, security is based on military and police forces, the judicial system that protects the state and its order, and the elite in power.


- The question of security is entrusted to the state, which supposedly defends and protects members of the community from exterior and interior dangers. Feminist theoretician and researcher Eric Blanchard says that the “discourses of national security are part of the elite world of male high politics. Citizens very rarely take part in the creation of the concept and practice of national and state security, except as subjects or 'informers'."
- The issue of security is mostly reduced to the military and police dimensions. Eric Blanchard states that discussions of security, especially on the international level, are "spinning the issues of war and peace, with a particular focus on military strategy." Another aspect of traditional security is the militarized economy, which produces deeper insecurity and greater inequality that hurt the poor, especially women and children. All of this leads to local, regional and global militarization.
- The invisibility of women and issues concerning women.
- The visibility of women only if they are serving the state and nation, giving birth to advance national security. If women are mentioned, they are referred to exclusively as objects to be used by the nation, state, and church. According to nationalist-militarist rhetoric and propaganda, all women are mothers—but it is important that mother and children have certain ethnic worth. In other words, giving birth is important only if it increases the majority (Serbian) nation. Serbian nationalist demographers, and most demographers who hold nationalist views, constantly emphasize the danger to the state from the outside, and that giving birth does not only prevent the extinction of the Serbian people but also is the way ‘to defend our terri­tories.’ Therefore, childbearing should be a function of national security and defense. Reproduction is only valuable if it produces children of a particular sex (male) and ethnicity (Serbian) within marriage. This example points to the direct connec­tion between sexism, nationalism, and militarism.


There is no basic secu­rity in Serbia, which means it is impossible to protect one’s basic exis­tence and property. During period of the war and the Milosevic regime, crimes committed in the name of ‘higher patriotic goals and national security’ were legalized. The legacy of that regime is a society in which organized crime and high risk behavior predominate. We live in a pathological community that has become accustomed to the abnor­mal. Militarization on the institu­tional, ideological, and cultural lev­els, leads to the circumstance that—even though Serbian society does not have elementary security—the most trusted people are those who are supposed­ly in charge of security and defense.

In the last ten years, public opinion polls have shown that the army and the church are the most trusted institutions in Serbia. Research conduct­ed by the Center for Civic-Military Relations in June and July 2003 shows that the army is trusted by 72 per­cent of the Serbian population and 55 percent of the Montenegrin population. Even though the army was defeat­ed in the last four wars, it still is the most trusted. Most of those interviewed mentioned that their reason for giving a vote of confidence to the army was that “the army guarantees peace and security," and that it is "connect­ed with the people." In response to the question of whether or not the Yugoslav Army (VJ in Serbian) has committed war crimes, 26 percent of respon­dents denied that "our army has committed crimes in the region of the former Yugoslavia." Fifty-nine percent of respondents believe that the VJ respects human rights.

About ensuring other aspects of the security (social, political, and cultural) of citizens (regardless of their ethnic, sexual, or religious allegiance), noth­ing can be said. According to UNICEF’s April 2003 report, approximately 200,000 children live in condi­tions of extreme poverty, while 600,000 children live below the poverty line. Unemployment in Serbia has exceeded 1,000,000 (the total number of employed persons is 1,820,000) and disproportionately affects women.


The concept of human securi­ty is based upon civic values, on the assumption that human beings are the primary subjects of security. Human security asserts that securi­ty cannot be achieved through the military, but only through policies that appeal for dialogue and the satisfaction of basic needs. The concept of human security is dealt with on the institutional level and by global civil society—that is, by alternative feminist-pacifist networks.

What is meant by human security?

- Protection of the civilian population in armed conflicts and a constant effort to ensure justice, respect for the law, democracy, and disarmament;
- Establishment of funds for human security in the post-conflict period;
- Promotion of fair trade and a global market that will benefit the world’s poorest and enable the development of a just and effective global system;
- Universal access to healthcare, the right to elementary education, and a basic standard of living for all. Nobel Peace Prize winner (1981) James Tobin has proposed the introduction of an international tax on all financial transactions that could solve all of the aforementioned problems globally;
- Respect for the freedom of all individuals to have plural identities and choices;
- Protection of people from armed conflicts, from the illegal arms trade, and other violence.


The passage of Resolution 1325 on October 31st, 2000 was a historical event. For the first time, the UN Security Council appealed for the inclusion of civil society, specifically women, in peace processes and in the application of peace agree­ments.

This resolution is practical support for women's groups that are engaged in peace building.

Resolution 1325 concen­trates on four fields:
1. The participation of women in peace processes;
2. The inclusion of a gender per­spective in peace processes and training to promote a gender perspective in peace missions;
3. The protection of women in cri­sis and war areas from violence, especially from rape;
4. The inclusion of a gender per­spective in UN reports and mecha­nisms for the implementation of peace agreements.


The feminist theory of secu­rity (FTS) is based upon the follow­ing principles:

- Recognition of women's experiences
- Exploration of women's invisibility in international security politics;
- Reexamination of the concept of ‘protection’ given to women by the state in times of both war and peace and the issues of women's everyday insecurity in the local and global patriarchal system. The question that must be asked is ‘does peacetime include peace for women?’ Eric Blanchard begins from the standpoint that "the state is part of the structures that allow women to become the objects of men's social control, not only through direct violence (murder, rape, domestic violence, and incest) but also through ideological constructions, such as 'women's jobs' and the cult of maternity, that justify structural violence, such as inadequate health services and widespread sexual harassment. Therefore, the state is women's false 'protector."

FTS investigates and questions the relationship between women, security, peace and war. Eric Blanchard identifies three possible feminist approaches to peace:
1. The position that accepts stereotypes about men's violence and women's peaceful nature and peace potential;
2. The position that rejects gender differences and represents women's right to an equal presence in the issues of war and peace;
3. The standpoint that attacks militarism and claims that war is a consequence of patriarchy, i.e. that war is rooted in military patriarchal structures and gender roles;

According to the antimilitarist standpoint, the paradigm of 'defense' is replaced by the paradigm of 'security.' The antimilitarist collective Contagious Utopia (Utopia contagiosa) in Madrid is known for its significant creative contribution to antimilitarist theory and practice. Members of the collective believe that the use of the term ‘security’ is vague about the role of militarism, allowing this term to take on a very broad and open meaning. This vagueness allows the army to become the embodiment of ‘good’ in the struggle against drug trafficking, natural disasters, terrorism, undocumented migration, humanitarian catastrophes, and other national crises. Contagious Utopia connects this with the growth of global militarization. "Militarism spreads in various ways, and constantly reorganizes itself in order to strengthen the mechanisms of social control through the use of tactics that are not considered to be military (including repressive apparatuses, reform and insecurity in the job market, personal security, immigration laws, and militarist elements in the educational system).


- The security of people, not of states. Human needs, not states' needs, are primary;
- Demilitarization on all levels: more arms doesn't mean higher security. As military expenses increase, security decreases;
- A fair distribution of resources: security can be achieved only if national, funds are used not for rifles and bombs but for the health and wellbeing of people worldwide. Therefore, "security is developing a concept that means security from hunger and repression, as well as protection from unexpected and painful turns in peoples' lives" (Likhaan, Philippines);
- Women's common work against militarism outside of and above state and national borders in order to create a world without military violence: soldiers that commit violence on the front, in military bases, or wherever they are located, become more violent against their female relatives once they return home. That is why it is necessary to consider the continuum of violence on the private and public planes, on the local and international levels (Pacific Women’s Antimilitarist Network).