Women and Power in the Nuclear Field

From March 1st to March 3rd, 2023, BASIC-ICCS hosted a Nuclear Responsibilities dialogue in Hanoi: ‘Preventing Escalation through a Responsibility-Based Regime in the Asia-Pacific’. 

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The dialogue had substantive and meaningful outcomes, due in no small part to our diverse participant list, which included a large number of women (proportionally, more women than men). As both leading and emerging voices in the nuclear field, women led the dialogue and enriched conversations with innovative ideas and perspectives

In a space historically dominated by men, traditional nuclear security efforts have minoritised, and harmed, women. The language of nuclear weapons is inherently gendered and hypermasculine. International security often continues to maintain inaccessible workplaces for women, with few in senior positions. Outside the walls of nuclear policy and diplomacy, where the consequences of decision making are in play, women are disproportionately impacted by nuclear weapons. These impacts include the medical effects of nuclear testing, the prevalence of gender-based violence in conflict zones or high security contexts where nuclear weapons are at risk of being used, and the hypermasculine cultures of the militaries who may use them. Women also sit at the heart of grassroots peace movements, navigating communities through transitional justice, or serve in active combat, or defining practices of deterrence to address today’s security concerns.

Beyond the gendered effects of nuclear weapons, diversity, equity, and inclusion in nuclear policy is critical. In seeking a safer, more secure world, every person on the planet is a stakeholder, and should therefore be represented. This representation brings a breadth of varied experiences and perspectives into focus as we tackle nuclear issues, and in turn makes our policy more inclusive, and effective, through tangible and innovative ideas, particularly in the context of spaces such as our recent dialogue in Hanoi.

BASIC is working towards making this the norm, addressing the existing gaps caused by historic structural imbalances that have excluded women and other marginalised communities from actively contributing and influencing nuclear issues. Inclusivity is fundamental to security, with an emphasis on intersectionality. Communities of people of colour, queer people, people with disabilities, many of whom are also women, must be included and empowered in these efforts too.

An intentional, coordinated effort is required to facilitate diverse contributions to the field, whether in dialogues, academia, or policymaking, and mainstreaming gender in our research in order to solidify intersectional practice in all realms of the nuclear field.

As we encourage states to consider their nuclear responsibilities, we must continue to enshrine and champion the principles of DEI within that process.

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