“Violence against women is a manifestation of the workings of power. The two are intrinsically linked and are experienced through both direct physical coercion and the material basis of relationships…Militarization, and cultures of militarism, exacerbate gender roles, further reducing equality and enabling the legitimzation and continuation of violence…”WILPF International Statement on CSW57: Elimination and Prevention of All Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls

What is disarmament and why women?

The most definitive explanation of disarmament and its importance to achieving peace is outlined on the Reaching Critical Will website. WILPF created the Reaching Critical Will project in 1999 in order to engage the UN processes related to disarmament.

Disarmament is about destroying or dismantling the hardware and machinery of war, reducing the size of and expenditure on armies and armed forces, eliminating the capacity to build weapons and integrating military personnel (back) into civilian life. Human security is about the full spectrum of human rights and increasing attention on the elimination of actual, potential and perceived threats of violence.

Women’s organisations have a long history of involvement in disarmament. The notion of peace and freedom within the women’s movement has traditionally centred on the idea that ‘peace has two essential prerequisites: disarmament and human security’.

Women have organised around disarmament in a number of ways. In the twentieth century many women acted together around disarmament, by, for example,  organising against conscription and against arms factories in world wars I and II, and as mothers of men at war or in conflict as with the Mothers of the Plaza del Mayo in Argentina and the Russian Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers.

Woman have organised in favour of disarmament due to the link that has been made between gender equality and peace, and due to the realisation of the different impact of violence on women and girls.  Women’s organisations often argue that peace is more than the absence of war, and that permanent peace can ‘only be built on the basis of equal rights, including equal rights between men and women, of justice within and between nationals, of national independence and of freedom’.  Women’s groups have outlined the interlinkage of violations of human rights, violence against women and structural violence in economic disparity to show that for women, there is no peace, even in ‘peacetime’.  In this understanding, as long as the tools of war exists and as long as humans remain beholden to the threat of war, we will continue to enjoy a state of conflict.

Resources and taking action

This OECD supported factsheet, produced by the United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs and the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, gives an overview of women’s advocacy for peace and disarmament from 1915 to 2001. The factsheet outlines why women have mobilized around disarmament and peace and a concise history of UN conferences on women and peace.

Disarmament: A Basic Guide is published by the UNODA in collaboration with the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security. The guide outlines why disarmament is important; women, peace and security; global military expenditures;  nuclear/chemical/biological/small weapons; landmines; cluster munitions; the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NNPT) and how to get involved in UN mechanisms for disarmament.


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