The Sufferings of Women After War: On the War after the War

Posted on June 9, 2012 in Society

By Priyanka Mittal:

War may be an indicator of victory, power, courage and control but at the same time it is also the omen of death, destruction, brutality and loss. As stated by Bertrand Russell, ‘War does not determine who right- only one who is left ’. Wars have been used since thousands of years to achieve an objective through assertion of power, leaving behind one victorious and several others defeated by its consequences. Soldiers, mothers, wives, daughters and sons are left behind after the war to reconstruct and revitalise their lives. The war fermenting within the war is the one that lasts longer and poses more of a concern than the war itself.

For women, the horrors of war go beyond the violence of warfare. Women suffer some of the greatest health inequalities and social limitations during war. Rape is often used as a weapon during times of lawlessness which may be coupled along with domestic violence. Once having escaped the conflict, they may still be asked to exchange sex for the protection of their children. The burden of picking up broken bits and reconstructing the family lies on the shoulders of the surviving woman. She is expected to show remarkable strength and courage in keeping going the family together.

During World War I, since most of the men were fighting as soldiers, the women were volunteered for positions of nurses and other jobs. But once the war was over, they were expected to return to the kitchen. Before the war, women mostly depended on men for financial support but post war they had to begin to support themselves. Similar was the case post-World War II, where women were employed in aircraft plants, shipyards, chemical factories which produced war materials but refused to be rehired as the men reclaimed them after the war which forced the women to return to living the title of the housewife.

The worst condition is the prolonged and life-threatening danger of the conditions post war without any self-defence. The feeling of helplessness by itself is the biggest drawback in the lives of women and helpless children. They are treated atrociously and assumed to be paying the price of being having survived the war.

The Gaza War victims are still suffering as the needed materials for reconstruction are being restricted entry into Palestine. Recently, a study was conducted to investigate of trauma including loss of home due to demolition and beloved one on Palestinians women mental health and coping strategies. It showed that they felt constantly under strain, were getting edgy and bad-tempered.  The traumatic events experienced by them lead to anxiety, depression, somatic and social dysfunctional symptoms. However, those women continued to take care of their children and family in spite of devastating effect of war by being courageous and brave.  

There are various organisations and committees raising their voice against such treatment, one of them being Oxfam International which has been established for the purpose of providing support and reconstruction services to those affected by the Gaza War. They provide clean water, sanitation, medical care, monitor human rights violations and support women’s and refugees’ rights in particular. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is committed to the protection of women and girls by providing them with life-saving care and helping them to heal from the trauma post war

It was the sheer magnitude of suffering and loss caused by the Kalinga War that made Ashoka turn into a new leaf. The massive number of women left widowed, children orphaned and the dire state of those not actively participating in the war scene, led to Ashoka vouching to never go at war again and start practising Buddhism.

In the end the question remains, is victory so important, even if it is tainted with the pain, suffering, distress and blood of another human being? Was it worth it, after all?