The impact of biowarfare on vulnerable genders needs to be factored in as discourse surrounding biological weapons expand
While chlamydia can have many outcomes, it is often asymptomatic in women and is categorised as a sexually transmitted disease that impacts women incongruently.Additionally, Japan experimented with sexually transmitted diseases against its captives between 1932-1945. Till today, rape and forced pregnancy are considered weapons of war, with one of the many lifelong impacts of these being sexually transmitted diseases. Likewise, the BWC also outlines chlamydia as a biological agent/weapon. While chlamydia can have many outcomes, it is often asymptomatic in women and is categorised as a sexually transmitted disease that impacts women incongruently. Anthrax, a well-known biological agent, reportedly impacted biological males more than biological females from 1998-2000 in the United States (US). However, the vaccine aimed at protecting against anthrax showed that women had more reactions than men, with no determined cause and almost twice the reaction risk. Most recently, the anthrax attacks of 2001 in the US have been classified as the worst biological attack in US History, resulting in the death of five individuals and seventeen individuals falling critically ill. While there have been no confirmed cases of biological attacks since the scope for such attacks and detrimental impact keep governments vigilant.
Gender concerns in the context of CRISPR include the potential implications of using this tool to impact genetic disorders that directly relate to reproductive health and fertility.The BWC only bans offensive research, and CRISPR has applications in medical and clinical research; thus, the scope of dual-use development must be considered. Primarily, the development and application of CRISPR technology and its potential effects on genetic traits can inadvertently perpetuate gender bias and enhance the results of the non-equitable representation of genders. This can result in the unequal impact of any CRISPR-based research or outcome, as noted by the anthrax vaccines' effect on women. Additionally, Gender concerns in the context of CRISPR include the potential implications of using this tool to impact genetic disorders that directly relate to reproductive health and fertility. Additionally, the discussion of gender is not uni-dimensional. As we saw earlier, the potential of wartime attacks on specific ethnic groups or races can begin with attacking the vulnerable gender in that community. Intersectionality is, thus, a relevant aspect of introducing gender in conversations of warfare, not without including ethnicity and race considerations. Thus, it is essential to note that these concerns are part of a broader ethical and societal conversation surrounding the use of CRISPR technology.
Governments, international organisations, and the scientific community must collaborate to develop regulations, promote research transparency, and enhance biosecurity measures to prevent the misuse of gene-editing tools for biowarfare.In recent years, some stakeholders have highlighted the necessity for gender-focused disarmament in biological warfare. Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, also highlighted the impact of biological Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and the differences that warrant gender considerations in disarmament policies. Additionally, Norway used the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) held in October 2021, by the UN, as a platform to advocate for gender representation in all disarmament conversations. Governments, international organisations, and the scientific community must collaborate to develop regulations, promote research transparency, and enhance biosecurity measures to prevent the misuse of gene-editing tools for biowarfare. International cooperation and open dialogue are essential to address the ethical and security challenges posed by the intersection of CRISPR and biowarfare. The discussions and considerations around gender in the context of biowarfare represent a vital step toward addressing the multifaceted impacts of biological weapons on different sexes and genders. The historical instances of biological warfare, the growing significance of emerging technologies like CRISPR, and the potential for intentional or inadvertent targeting based on gender underscore the urgency of this issue. Ultimately, by integrating gender considerations into the discourse surrounding biological warfare, we can move closer to a more equitable and secure world—one in which vulnerabilities are acknowledged, addressed, and mitigated holistically, ensuring the protection of all members of society.
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Shravishtha Ajaykumar is Associate Fellow at the Centre forRead More +