Feminist Foreign Policy and the Failings of the West

Ana Ben is a first year student in the department of Classics, interested in women’s rights, different cultures, international law and philosophy. Her hobbies include debating, going to art galleries and writing.

Although it might be difficult to perceive the sale of arms as a feminist issue at first glance, the impact of war as the result of the sale being detrimental to women in a multiplicity of ways establishes a clear link between the two. The fact that war often leads to an increase in child marriage due to families being unable to generate a high enough profit to survive, an increase in violence against women and an additional barrier which prevents light being shed on women’s rights and liberties shows that the sale of arms is detrimental to the lives of women and should be regarded as a feminist issue in order to achieve the best solution. The controversial decisions of Canada and Britain to continue selling arms to Saudi Arabia and therefore fuel a war in Yemen is an indication of the fact that there is a need to regard the sale of arms as a feminist issue in order to question the extent to which Western governments are able to be feminist and promote equality beyond the Western hemisphere.

The fact that the Canadian government continues to sell arms to Saudi Arabia to be used in an escalating conflict against Saudi citizens by Saudi Arabia’s rulers undermines the notion of the government being feminist and empowering to all women. Although the Canadian Minister for International Development Marie Claude Bibeau declared that she is ‘here to push [her] feminist agenda’, whilst the country continues to sell dangerous weapons to Saudi Arabia for the purpose of trade relations, undermines the feminist agenda of the Canadian government outside of the West. The fact that Saudi Arabia both uses the weapons in its own country as well as deploying them to fuel the conflict in Yemen, which continues to have a drastic impact on women is indicative of the ignorance displayed by the government in terms of how the arms trade impacts women and harms its own feminist agenda. The case of Nigeria further indicates the ignorance displayed by governments when assessing the impacts of the arms trade, due to them being completely dismissive of the impact arms trade deals have on women. The fact that a few months after announcing its new global feminist agenda, the US government signed ‘a $593 arms deal with the Nigerian military’ a crucial component of which includes the A-29 Tucano warplanes the engines of which are manufactured by a Canadian company, further indicates the fact that the arms sale orchestrated by governments fails to ensure the safety of women within countries where they are already vulnerable. Moreover, the use of the Super Tucano aircraft in the past to bomb refugee camps, killing dozens of civilians, is an indicator of the fact that by continuing to sell arms governments fail to meet their global feminist agenda and put the safety of women under a huge threat. Therefore, by regarding the sale of arms as a feminist issue there could be a greater possibility to expand discussion around the impact of conflict orchestrated via the sale of arms on women outside of the West and eventually develop better protection mechanisms.

The fact that Britain continues to sells arms to Saudi Arabia to fuel its war with Yemen is a further indicator of the fact that by continuing to sell arms governments sustain conflict, which in turn actively harms women and their ability to have rights and liberties as well as engage with society more broadly. Although it has been claimed that British-made weapons were used to violate international law in Yemen, the fact that ‘the UK was the second-biggest arms dealer in the world in 2016 after the US’ shows that there is a trend to use the feminist label in theory whilst causing significant harm to Yemeni women. The direct sale of weapons into a male dominated regime by the West shows a trend to actively preserve the existence of systems which cause significant harm to women both directly and indirectly. The direct link between conflict and an increase in child marriage ( due to families being unable to make ends meet), violence against women and a shift away from a discussion regarding women’s issues, is a clear indicator of the fact that by continuing to sell weapons to countries where women are already at risk, Western governments continue to fail to realise their global feminist agenda and ensure the safety of all citizens, rather than just the patriarchal systems and norms which by design harm women. Therefore, by posing such a risk to women due to compromising their safety, the international sale of arms should be regarded as a feminist issue. By analysing the impact of the government’s foreign policy through a feminist lens we are more likely to see the structural limits placed on women by patriarchal and masculine norms and develop a better idea of what to dismantle and how we should dismantle it to end the suffering of women around the world.

Overall, although the foreign policy of governments does not at first appear to be a feminist issue the impacts of the sale of arms by Western governments highlights the detrimental impact it has on women around the world. Regarding the sale of arms as a feminist issue acts as a mechanism to dismantle the hypocrisy exhibited by governments who seek to empower women but fail to do so outside of the western bubble, challenge it and develop mechanisms to stop the selling of arms from fueling systems which exist to actively harm and disempower women around the world.









Picture credit: https://edition.cnn.com/2016/05/24/politics/us-arms-sales-worldwide/index.html