The Panties for Peace campaign was launched by the women’s organization Lanna Action for Burma on Oct. 16, 2007, in the hopes of bringing an end to the military regime’s rampant abuse of Burma’s population – and the abuse of Burma’s women in particular. The Canadian version of the campaign was launched in Montreal Canada, on May 27. The basis of this protest is the superstition of the male led military junta. They believe that contact with womens garments, particularly those that cover the lower half of the body is emasculating.
"The campaign was launched by women from Burma," Rights and Democracy spokesperson Mika Levesque told CTV Newsnet from Montreal. An Interview with Mika Levesque can be seen here
Burmese activist Thet Thet Tun told CTV Newsnet on Tuesday, "We want Canadians to know about women and discrimination against our democratic reforms."
"I think (underwear) that has already been worn will be most effective to put them to shame." It's been very well documented that rape has been used as a weapon of war in Burma. Soldiers go into villages and they systematically rape women. They have also used women as sexual slaves," Levesque said.
This is a non violent protest exploiting taboos against women, and further underlines crimes against women committed by the military. According to Lanna Action for Burma, "The current humanitarian crisis affecting the population of Burma today is a product of more than 20 years of gross neglect and human rights abuses. The new crisis began as a natural disaster but quickly became a man-made catastrophe.
Once again the horrible aftermath of Cyclone Nargis has exposed the corruption and tyranny of Burma’s military regime for all the world to see. While the world dithers about “Responsibility to Protect,” also known as R2P… let the women of the world lead with R2PP, the “Right to Post Panties.” Our fury has grown and Burma’s military rulers are in a weakened state and thus vulnerable to the power that they attribute to our underpants. If this is the power they believe we have, then this is the power we will use against them."
Though I do not fully comprehend how this campaign will produce the results that these women so desperately need, I stand firmly against the use of rape as a tactic of war, and the specific exploitation of women. As western women we must follow the desires of the women that are being abused. It is their culture, and as such, they are in the best position to say what will be effective. There is no peaceful effort that we should be unwilling to make to stop systemic violence against women.
Even as you are sending your panties to raise awareness for the women of Burma, be aware that this is not an isolated case. Since the history of war, womens bodies have been used as weapons of war. It has always been common to kill all the men and rape the women. Yet despite the historical occurrence of this, rape has only been recently been declared a war crime. It is not women that initiate war, and yet our bodies are raped, maimed, and murdered in an effort to hurt other males. Though rape happens to us, it occurs in this instance because women are still viewed as the property of men. It is conceived that nothing could be more harmful to male pride than to have his "possession" tarnished by another male. Such is the global status of women that our bodies are not even assumed to be the receptacles of the pain that we must endure. With the few weapons that we have available to us, we must stand in solidarity against such extreme violation.
Send your package to the representatives of the military junta in Canada :
Embassy of the Union of Myanmar
85 Range Rd, 903
Ottawa (Ontario) K1N 8J6
An online petition can also be found here.