Security policy was brought up repeatedly during Tuesday’s discussions on feminist foreign policy at Glocal Development Talks. Gudrun Schyman, representative of Feminist Initiative raised the issue of militarisation within Sweden’s declared “feminist foreign policy”. As more women die due to gender-based violence than people die in military conflicts and from diseases, Schyman calls for a new definition of security policy. She questions the idea of national security as the military protection of territory and nation-states. Rather, a security policy should be the protection of human rights and people and the termination of violence against women.
Sheelu Francis from Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective, Naila Kabeer who is a professor at London School of Economics and Maria Persson from Svalorna were able to comment and ask questions to Gudrun Schyman after her presentation. The respondents emphasised the need for shedding light on the domestic sphere in the discussion on security policy. Sheelu Francis calls it the “silent war on women”, meaning the violence experienced by almost all women in their own homes. Furthermore, she highlights the fact that India continues to increase the military budget, currently at more than 20 per cent of the national budget. Violence against women transcends the boundaries between the domestic and the foreign policy and therefore the two need to be dealt with coherently, said Naila Kabeer.
All three speakers agree that a feminist foreign policy has to include a different and new definition of security, one of disarmament and anti-militarisation. Yet, Sheelu Francis and Naila Kabeer raise the importance of discussing the definition of feminism within a “feminist foreign policy” to ensure it is one of inclusiveness and of representing a global rather than a western feminism.
To conclude, global alliances between feminists are crucial to push for new definitions of security, one where domestic and women’s security transcend the security of territories and nation-sates. Global feminist alliances are also vital to mainstream a feminism that is not western, but instead as diverse and progressive as the spectrum of feminists and women’s movements worldwide. Discussions and conversations like the ones we have seen today enable and strengthen such alliances. They create an important link between the macro and the domestic level and between South and North. Perhaps it also helps all of us to be as loud and clear as we wish to be, demanding the rights every person is entitled to!
Text: Sarah Bodelsson