Why saying ‘No to Nukes’ is so important being a woman?

Bhargavi Dilipkumar

Gathering some thoughts around Women’s day (March 8th) – Fukushima Day (March 11th)

On the wake of the 3rd anniversary commemorating the world’s worst catastrophic failure at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and the rise of fear among the citizens of other Countries thereafter, we all have many lessons to learn yet, are we even trying hard to learn these is a big question.

Fukushima disaster triggered an ultimate fear in the minds of the people far away in the small coastal village called Idinthakarai in Tamilnadu State of India. Television footages of people wearing masks, dressed in white suits, running from one place to another, living in boxes in isolation, going through several radioactive tests and having to leave their homes created an intense impact in the minds of these villagers who share compound walls with a Nuclear Reactor on one side and the sea on the other. The Tsunami colony of this village which was built by the Tamilnadu Government for resettling the people, who were affected by Tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean in 2004, is a place where people wake up every day to face the big domes of the Nuclear Reactors of the Kudankulam Atomic Power Plant. This feeling of “between the devil and the deep sea” is the strong catalyst which is still driving the struggle in the ground at Idinthakarai after several instances of repression, Filing thousands of false cases, police firings, coast guard raids, implementing bombs in the village, dividing the struggling group by playing the ‘money games’, by arresting the important struggle committee members and the numerous inhuman tortures.

We have read enough about the struggles in the ground against the Nuclear Energy establishments several times and have criticized as well as supported a few. Yet, there is always a great divide and disconnect between other social movements and the anti nuclear movements.

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Ms. Aruna Roy while talking at the Panel discussion on “Abolishing Nuclear Weapons” on the 8th of November 2013 organized by the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace and Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy at IIC, Delhi said “The anti nuclear movements need to re-strategize and there should be a change in language and idiom of this conversation. The issue needs to be publically debated and a common people’s perspective need to be developed this will in turn make the other social movements to realize ‘What nuclearisation means to them?’ or ‘why is it a non issue for the struggles which fight on the ground for land rights, right to Information and women’s rights?’ There should also be a gender discourse and debate around the nuclear issues”

Ms. Roy tried elucidating one of the major issues of or in fact the failure of the Anti Nuclear Movements in India. The issue can either be of the non realization of the Gender rights movements to understand the importance of the nuclear issues and failure to counter the problematic gender stands taken by the patriarchal nuclear lobby or the failure of the anti nuclear movements in India to involve and include gender rights movements as there is a lack of holistic approach.

Gender differences and sex roles have to be studied explicitly in order to fight the battle against one of the most autocratic, capitalistic, colonial establishment such as the nuclear establishment which is the ‘Department of Atomic Energy’. The basic question that should rise in all our minds as we see the chairmanship in the past 66 years of this establishment from Homi Bhabha (1948-1966) to Ratan Kumar Sinha (2012 to present) “Is it a deliberate thing that there was never a woman chairman in DAE?”. It brings in a lot of perspective to the study which was done in 1987 regarding the “Gender differences in attitudes towards nuclear war and disarmament” which clearly states in its findings that “Women have expressed greater opposition to military spending, military intervention and great support for peace and equity issues over the past 30 years. Men generally are pro force, pro capital punishment, and pro military interventions, anti gun control and are against the procedures to restrict war.” This can be backed by most feminist arguments be it the social feminist position that claims ‘the economic conditions of women provides them with a different global orientation than most men, who generally fare better economically’ or the most believable and definite approach which proclaims that ‘women have a fundamentally different view of the world than men because of their biological ability to reproduce which provides them with a unique role in the continuation of species.”

The visible connection of nuclearization to gender issues is often not seen or carefully ignored. In the context of war ‘women’s lives’ are seen as marginal concerns and not as a central one. The social movement space is strengthened and is sustained for the past several years essentially because of using the feminist approach in every struggle in the ground. It is obvious that the question of ‘Social costs of nuclear weaponisation or nuclearisation in a country where the basic needs of shelter, food and water, electricity, health and education have not been met’ can be raised effectively by women as the scarcity of resources hits women the hardest in spite of the fact that only a smaller share of these resources reach them. Even the most simplest of things like the shortage of water means increase in labor for women who have to spend more time & energy in fetching water from distant places at odd hours of the day. If this is just the case of water scarcity, one should imagine the innumerable effects of a nuclear disaster on women.

The entire idea of bringing in the gender rights groups as well as groups struggling in the ground for various other things to form an opinion on the nuclearisation and to support the antinuclear struggles is also important to strengthen the feminist perspectives of the struggle and to counter the extremely patriarchal nuclear establishment. This negligence or the strange character of nuclear policy making as of a study on the Gender roles in nuclear policy making in India says that the debate not only sidelines the moral and ethical questions but also genders them in a problematic way. The elite get to be represented as rational, scientific, modern and of course masculine, while ethical questions about the social and environmental costs are made to seem emotional, regressive and not modern. This rather dangerous way of thinking which suggests that the questions about human life and welfare are somehow neither modern nor properly masculine and whether men have no capacity or concern for peace and morality can have disastrous consequence for both men and women.

Breaking these frames is the need of the hour and it can’t be possible just by the women of Idinthakarai or women of Bhopal taking the lead but all of us collectively thinking on the roles and starting to view the nuclear debates with a feminist approach. The women of Idinthakarai have set a tremendous example by putting their strong battle in the front for a larger cause to save the mother earth and not narrowing it to their lives which has to be studied well and lessons should be learnt at the earliest from the struggle in the ground. Women have played significance role around the world in the anti nuclear movements of 1980s where they have gone to the extent of creating a women’s forum which was aiming to get away from Nuclear Weapons where in women from Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and Japan have taken the lead, did base camps in army bases and have shown to the world the significance of feminist approach to fight nuclear establishments across the world. It is high time we realize it in this part of the world.

Bhargavi is associated with the Programme for Social Action(PSA).



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