Photo: Varga Attila, Wikimedia Commons


Therefore, arms exports are a goal conflict for feminist foreign policy

Foreign Minister Margot Wallström says in an interview in Svenska Dagbladet that she does not understand how arms exports to countries such as the Philippines concern feminist foreign policy. There are many examples that explain how Swedish arms exports affect women's rights, resources and influence, writes Agnes Hellström at Svenska Freds.

Many of us were surprised when Foreign Minister Margot Wallström on April 20 in one article in Svenska Dagbladet opposed that there would be a problematic link between selling weapons to countries that grossly violate human rights and working for greater equality.

Swedish Peace has for a long time highlighted the clearly negative impact of arms exports on Swedish foreign policy and we are not alone. The Agenda 2030 delegation, whose task was to evaluate Sweden's goal fulfillment regarding the global development goals, also describes Swedish arms exports as a goal conflict. In international rankings, Sweden's rating has been downgraded by the fact that arms exports are considered to counteract the work for security and development.

In the article, Wallström says, among other things, that it cannot be assumed that all women are against arms exports. But feminism has never been about what individual women think on individual political issues. The feminist analysis is based on an insight into how unequal power structures are reproduced in a patriarchal system. It is about seeing structures that lead to negative consequences for women as a group. We believe that the Foreign Minister agrees with that, the question is why gender glasses are completely lost when it comes to this issue.

Margot Wallström herself has on several occasions described how feminist foreign policy rests on three building blocks:

1. Representation: to increase women's participation in political decision-making.
2. Respect: to respect and strengthen women's rights.
3. Resources: to take a gender perspective on how resources are distributed.

Since there seems to be a misunderstanding about how Swedish arms exports and feminist foreign policy are connected, we would like to take this opportunity to make some clarifications.

1. REPRESENTATION: Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship where women's rights are systematically and through legislation taken away from them. Women are denied the right to participate in political decision-making and are forced to have male guardians. The regime is violently oppressing democracy activists and women human rights defenders, and the country has great regional influence. When the opposition in Bahrain, including women human rights activists, in 2011 demanded political reforms, they were crushed by Bahrain's security forces backed by the Saudi military. Sweden has exported arms to both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. When Sweden accepts the export of weapons to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, it means legitimizing this oppression of women. Therefore, arms exports undermine the first cornerstone of feminist foreign policy - to increase women's participation in political decision-making.

2. RESPECT: In February this year, it was clear that Sweden had granted arms exports to the Philippines for the first time in a very long time. The week before the news came out, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who by the way compared himself to Hitler, gave a speech to the army urging it to shoot female rebels in the vagina to make them useless. Duterte is being investigated by the International Criminal Court, ICC, for suspected violations of international law and has been criticized by Amnesty for extrajudicial executions and imprisonment of human rights activists. When Sweden grants arms exports to a state whose president shows such a lack of respect for fundamental human rights, it means that Sweden undermines the work done for the second cornerstone of feminist foreign policy - to respect and strengthen women's rights.

3. RESOURCES: India was the world's largest importer of major weapons systems 2012-2016. At the same time, the Swedish Embassy in New Delhi reported in its country report 2016 that about 40 percent of Indian children under the age of 5 and about 36 percent of the country's adult women are malnourished, according to the Indian government's own estimates. Sweden has been a loyal exporter of munitions to India since the 1950s. Intensive attempts are currently underway to sell Swedish Jas Gripen planes to India. This is another example of how the upgrading of weapons systems and military security takes precedence over investments in human security and welfare. According to the International Peace Research Institute Sipri, a redistribution of 20 percent of the world's military spending would be enough to achieve several of the global development goals, namely goals one and two, of eradicating poverty and hunger, and goal four of providing good education for all children. . When Sweden grants arms exports to India without attaching importance to how it will affect the country's development in accordance with the Global Development Policy and Agenda 2030, it counteracts the third cornerstone of feminist foreign policy - to take a gender perspective on how resources are distributed.

Sweden's arms exports are immoral and indefensible and no feminist foreign policy is credible that does not recognize and remedy this conflict. Despite important efforts on other levels. Feminism is not about what women in Sweden think about arms exports. It is about the consequences of arms exports for women's security in the world.


The analysis of politics from a gender perspective is produced by the Swedish Peace and International Women's Association for Peace and Freedom.

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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