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Blogg: Nuclear weapons are the ultimate patriarchal tool

2018-04-26

During the first two days of the second session of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee, men delivered 73 per cent of statements. Despite this we welcome the statements of the European Union, Group of Nordic Countries, the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), Vienna Group of Ten, Philippines, Costa Rica, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Ireland, and Netherlands for highlighting the importance of women’s participation in disarmament and/or the importance of gender analysis. Many of these delegations, however need to start practicing what they preach.

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) has worked to promote women’s participation and a gender perspective on security and disarmament issues since our origin in 1915. Throughout history, women have not had the same access to official power as men and it is still the case today. As a result of our exclusion from formal and social structures, women largely organise, effect change, and participate in civil society. Nuclear disarmament is no exception—women and women’s organisations have played a central role in the work to prohibit these weapons of mass destruction.

However, a gender perspective is of course not only concerned about women’s representation. A gender perspective is also about highlighting and challenging power structures, visualising what maintains them and, above all, the will to change.

A gender perspective is about what interests are allowed to trump others, which actors are considered relevant and worthy of listening to, and how resources are distributed. A gender perspective therefore questions why national security constantly weighs heavier than human rights and human security.

Nuclear weapons are strongly linked to ideas of masculinity and power. This becomes especially evident in discussions about disarmament, where advocates of disarmament are often assigned stereotypical and negative, feminine characteristics like being “naïve” or emotional. This dynamic has existed throughout discussion on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

Today, the nuclear-armed states have interpretative precedence on global security and are using prevailing legislation, including the NPT, to legitimise their nuclear weapons, which weakens the NPT and goes against article VI on disarmament.

The TPNW is the first advancement of multilateral nuclear disarmament for decades and is an important tool for stigmatising nuclear weapons and ending the ideas that these weapons are proof of power. Instead, the TPNW focuses on what nuclear weapons actually are: weapons of mass destruction that have the ability to indiscriminately kill hundreds of thousands of civilians. It challenges patriarchal power structures, highlights human rights, socio-economic rights, the gendered impact, and the environmental impact. This agreement is not only groundbreaking when it comes to disarmament, but also within the on-going evolution of international law. All states that are supportive of and engage in work linked to climate, poverty reduction, gender equality, and sustainable development should stand behind the TPNW.

Gabriella Irsten, politisk handläggare

Texten publicerades först i NPT in Review, IKFF:s internationella nedrustningsprograms nyhetsblad, som delas ut under konferensen om icke-spridningsavtalet i Genève.

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