"Weapons were silenced so women and people can speak" and "My body is my house, my house is my territory. Do not deliver the keys" are the slogans that indicate the direction of the discussions of the "International Meeting of Women and Peoples of the Americas Against Militarization," which begins next Monday (16th), in Colombia. The closing ceremony will be the 23rd, with an international day of solidarity with women and peoples struggling against militarization.
It is expected that over 1,000 women and men from popular movements and social and political organizations in Latin America will discuss strategies for action against militarization and the presence of foreign troops in the region. The meeting takes place at a crucial moment given the political and military situation in Latin America.
The coup in Honduras, Haiti's military occupation and the installation of U.S. military bases in Colombia and Panama, are just some examples of the progress of the many infractions by the United States in the region. The country chosen to host the Meeting Against Militarization could not be better: Colombia, the state that since 2009, signed a Defence and Security Agreement with the U.S. superpower.
"In addition to what was pinpointed above, the meeting takes place in a country whose government has a history of 40 years of military cooperation with the United States, which - using the fallacy of drug control, drug trafficking and terrorism, has been the pretext for the persecution and stigmatization of social protest - hiding the true economic interests that are behind the conflict in Colombia: to maintain control of the natural resources, territory and people.
The growing militarization in Latin America has affected the sovereignty of the people with forced displacement, human rights violations and exploitation of natural resources. Women are the main victims of this situation, because as the military in an area increases, so does sexism, prostitution and sexual violence against women.
"Historically, military bases have been used to invade strategic territories for their geopolitical location to control the natural resources there which are often inhabited by the ancient peoples, African descendants and peasants. These military bases also "promote prostitution, with the operation of official houses that serve as 'entertainment' to the soldiers, but for women, they represent sexual slavery and other forms of violence, including killings of women," said members of various women's organizations in a press release last July.
The International Meeting of Women and Peoples of the Americas Against Militarization will be divided into three stages. During the first, from the 16th to the 20th of August, a humanitarian mission of solidarity and resistance will visit various regions of Colombia to observe the effects of militarization.
The International Meeting in the strict sense, will begin on the 21st, in the city of Barrancabermeja (Santander region), with debates and exchanges of experiences among social movements. On the evening of day 22, participants will present the final declaration of the meeting and the agenda for the demilitarization of the Continent. The close of activities will be on the 23rd, with a Vigil for Life.
The mobilizations will not be restricted to Colombia. Social movements and organizations are invited to carry out in several countries, an International Day of Solidarity with the Women and Peoples of Colombia and the Americas struggling against militarization.
The purpose of the demonstrations is to draw the attention of society on the advance of militarization in Latin America. Along this line, groups interested in participating can do activities such as vigils and acts before the diplomatic representatives of Colombia and the United States, distribution of leaflets, seminars, demonstrations in the streets and meetings with parliamentarians.