Gender, Defence and War Profiteering
In 2014, according to the IHS Global Defence Trade Report, global defence trade increased to $64.4 billion, up from $56.8 billion the previous year. The report underscored that the US supplied one-third of all exports followed by the Russian Federation, France, UK and Germany. Seven of the top 10 defence importers were from Asia-Pacific: India, China, Taiwan, Australia, South Korea, Indonesia and Pakistan. The top 5 company exporters are Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Airbus Group and UAC. The first three are US companies while the last two have headquarters in France and Russia, respectively.1
SIPRI reported that global military expenditures in 2014 reached US$1776 billion with China, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia on the Top 15 of countries with the highest military expenditures.2
While countries beef up their defence systems to “protect” their people, their territorial integrity and national sovereignty against internal and external threats, those who profit from the huge spending on defence and military and from wars, in general, make tons of money.
Huge military and defence spending has many costs. The defence trade, profitable for a few, engenders, fuels and sustains armed conflicts. The IISS reported that there were 42 active armed conflicts in 2014 with 180,000 fatalities.3
The traditional notion of defence presupposes that there is always danger, threat or attack. The meaning of defence has been constructed in a way that has led governments and non-state actors to build up their weapon arsenals and prepare for counter-attack. Defence has become synonymous with violence and militarism.
This notion of defence has gendered implications. Defence has become male territory supporting gendered power of men against women. This notion of defence has fuelled, sustained and exacerbated armed conflicts where rape is used as a tactic of war. Such notion has led to displacement where, “women and girls comprise about half of any refugee, internally displaced or stateless population”, according to UNHCR. Women camping out in evacuation centres suffer from a lack of health-related services making lives doubly miserable for those who are pregnant, menstruating or lactating. Reports of sexual harassment are also high in evacuation camps.
Indeed, the notion of defence which militarises society puts women at more risk, making war profiteering and gender-based violence a vicious cycle. Additionally, women who feel unsafe begin to arm themselves against male violence, further beefing up arms sales.
This traditional notion of defence - masculine and reinforcing of patriarchy - has led to excessive global military spending which impacts on the ability of governments to deliver basic social services such as health, livelihood and education especially for women; thereby reducing further, the chance for gender equality.
But women, in history, have not just been watching as war profiteers laugh their way to the bank. Women peace activists have always questioned the dominant security paradigm that invests money in the military-industrial complex rather than on services that will support human development.
Women have been in the forefront of campaigns against the institutionalisation and glamorisation of violence. They have been in the forefront of campaigns for the enactment of treaties in the global level and laws in the local levels that will help prevent sex and gender-based violence. They have been in the forefront of efforts to educate for peace so that the future generations may know that war solves nothing, and that there are nonviolent solutions to the conflicts that confront the community of nations and communities within nations. Women are at the forefront of efforts at disarmament and arms control knowing that the proliferation of weapons can trigger violence that will put them, their loved ones and their communities at risk. They have been in the forefront of campaigns to cut military expenditures and calls to divert these resources to development, aware that armed conflicts are often caused by poverty and injustice. They have been working in communities to prevent and mediate in conflicts, as well as in addressing their root causes.
And they are at the forefront of efforts to go beyond women, understanding that men have a stake in challenging militarisation where they are major actors and victims.
They do all these, because they cannot reconcile how weaponization can bring security, as war profiteers proclaim. The security they know is anchored in the ability of people to resolve their conflicts constructively and nonviolently; in the ability of their government to deliver services that will guarantee their rights and well-being. Despite the odds, they will persist in using their agency to get to peace and human security.
Jasmin Nario-Galace is Executive Director of the Center for Peace Education in Miriam College in the Philippines. She is National Coordinator of the Women Engaged in Action on 1325 and President of Pax Christi-Pilipinas.. She is a member of the Women Peacemakers’ Program-Asia and is in the Steering Committee of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders.
1 IHS Newsroom. Saudi Arabia Replaces India as Largest Defence Market for US, IHS Study Says. (March 7, 2015). Retrieved September 19, 2015, from http://press.ihs.com/press-release/aerospace-defense-terrorism/saudi-ar…-
2 Sam Perlo-Freeman, Aude Fleurant, Pieter D. Wezeman and Siemon T. Trends in world military expenditure, 2014. Retrieved September 19, 2015 from http://books.sipri.org/product_info?c_product_id=496
3 IISS. Armed Conflict Survey 2015 Press Satement. (May 19, 2015). Retrieved September 19, 2015 from https://www.iiss.org/en/about%20us/press%20room/press%20releases/press%…