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Symposium explores gender impact of nuclear weapons

A symposium titled “Do they really protect everything you treasure? — Looking at nuclear weapons from humanitarian and gender perspectives” was held at the Nippon Seinenkan Hotel in Tokyo on September 22 as one of SGI’s events in the run-up to the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on September 26.

Organized by the Soka Gakkai Peace Committee with support from the Embassy of Costa Rica, the symposium explored the issues of nuclear weapons and security featuring five speakers: Her Excellency Laura Esquivel Mora, Ambassador of Costa Rica, Dr. Masao Tomonaga, Acting Committee Chairman of the Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, Dr. Toshie Kurihara, Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP), Mr. Akira Kawasaki, member of the International Steering Group of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and Ms. Masako Toki, project manager and research associate in the Nonproliferation Education Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, USA.

In welcoming remarks, Mr. Kazuo Ishiwatari, Chair of the Soka Gakkai Peace Committee, stressed the importance of the early entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) by all countries including Japan. He also introduced a video message from Ms. Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN, in which she stated her hope that Japanese people would be inspired to ask their government to join the TPNW.

Ambassador Esquivel delivered the keynote speech, outlining why nuclear disarmament matters today, as any detonation of nuclear weapons would cause catastrophic humanitarian impact and have a disproportionate effect on women and girls, partly as a result of ionizing radiation.

The five speakers including Ambassador Esquivel then joined a panel discussion moderated by Mr. Kimiaki Kawai, Director of the Soka Gakkai Peace Committee. Dr. Tomonaga explained how radiation has a disproportionate impact on women and girls from a medical perspective, while Dr. Kurihara pointed out that a gender perspective can impact the traditional security discourse by bringing diversified ways of understanding it. Mr. Kawasaki stressed that the TPNW accommodates a gender perspective within it, while Ms. Toki presented the importance of nonproliferation and disarmament education and referred to the recent disarmament agenda of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. About 100 people participated, including high school and university students and hibakusha, leading to vibrant discussion and the opportunity to share innovative ideas on how citizens in Japan can work toward a world free from nuclear weapons.

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