Gender Inclusion: A Crucial Path Towards Attaining Disarmament?
Marla S. Zgheib
Research Team, SCRAP Weapons
Refugees who are hosted in camps often wait for authorities to decide on their behalf where the safe zone areas are and to call for a way back home. Without any consideration of how refugees deem a secure place, decision-makers tend to solve this crisis. However, does the absence of military operations constitute a safe place? What about the reopening of schools, or the reconstruction of hospitals in towns? Hence, solving this crisis with the omission of the refugees’ voices would lead to further tribulation. Likewise, when women are not part of their equations, disarmament activists and academics would not rightly address the root causes hindering disarmament.
There is a call for a structural change that seeks to interrogate gender inclusion in disarmament. In fact, the involvement of women in disarmament boosts the phenomenon of introducing gender perspectives to security policies. What will the future of security studies look like when designed and developed by women? Since women and children are the most affected group in armed conflicts, women’s participation in disarmament matters for any future progress. The UNSCR 1325 on Women Peace and Security (2000) points out the crucial role of women in preventing and solving conflicts and considers women’s involvement key for the maintenance of international peace and security. Since 2000, more than five resolutions have been adopted to support the provisions of the UNSCR 1325. Nevertheless, the course of women in disarmament is far beyond the UNSCR 1325 agenda. Involving women’s voices becomes a necessity to bring new and profound perspectives to our understanding of international peace and security.
Failure to achieve women’s engagement draws limited perspectives on highly complex dimensions in disarmament and arms control. In a publication by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), gender perspectives were mentioned to tackle various issues, such as cultural and biological differences (2001). For instance, men and women are affected disproportionately by wars, conflicts, and the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Accordingly, there is a need for women, as well as men, to engage in discussions affecting women’s lives. Embracing full participation of women helps us analyze how people with biological differences mobilize and organize for change. Communities are not homogenous, and thus, it is crucial to study the construction of how different groups perceive disarmament and how men and women seek solutions differently. These considerations suggest practical and sustainable solutions.
In addition, an argument to involve women in disarmament should never be based on the consensus that women are naturally less belligerent than men. In fact, women are interwoven with armed conflicts not just as victims, but also as soldiers themselves, as service providers that cook, wash clothes and provide sexual services, as scholars, negotiators, and several other roles which facilitate active participation of women in conflict. For a meaningful participation of women within disarmament, questions on “who controls weapons, who is affected and how” must be answered by looking at how power is defined (Dwan, 2019). Such power goes beyond calling for a balanced participation in numbers to shape a broader consideration of the links between masculinity and militarism. Without women in disarmament, we cannot understand how masculinity in the politics of arms proliferation hinders us from maintaining international peace and security.
All people, regardless of their academic fields or their level of expertise, know how to make peace. The challenge lies in the creativity to instill the political will in those who do not have it. Accordingly, we should hope to embrace a posture of gender equality in disarmament as a way to enhance such creativity. Courage is needed to seek and introduce women’s perspectives in disarmament since such revision will alter how arms control is perceived and developed.
United Nations Security Council. 2000. Resolution 1325. [Online]. [Accessed 22 October
2020]. Available from: http://undocs.org/S/RES/1325%20(2000)
United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. 2001. Gender Perspectives on Weapons
of Mass Destruction. [Online]. [Accessed 22 October 2020]. Available from:
Dwan, R. 2019. ‘Women in Arms Control: Time for a Gender Turn?’ Arms Control
Association. [Online]. [Accessed 22 October 2020]. Available from:
Marla S. Zgheib
Research Team, SCRAP Weapons