Constitutions. Hamilton. Founding Fathers. Fathers. Father. Patriarchy.
In July scientists found a lake in Mars, raising hope that life on Mars, or a ‘colony’ on Mars, may become possible. Elon Musk has been telling us it is possible. Blue Origin tells us that ‘our dramatic next step will take us closer to the potential space holds for us all’. Space exploration has become the sport and object of the super rich and of transhumanists who are convinced that the Event is coming upon us. Beyond the bunkers in New Zealand built by the capitalist uber elite, space, planets, and terrain beyond ‘the Earth, our home’ is destined for exploration. And if they achieve their goals, then what? When the first to arrive are the super elite and the wealthy will they do anything other than impose the capitalist extractivist patriarchy under which we live here and now? What type of rules would these founding fathers desire to regulate their affairs in Mars? Who will the ‘founding fathers’ be? Bezos, Musk, Zuckerberg, Trump?
It is time that international feminist lawyers start talking about founding space feminism (For an excellent doctrinal overview of the laws on outer space including environmental protection and appropriation see Gerardine Goh Escolar here). If space exploration is to happen (and it is happening), we must ensure that life in other spaces and times are not subject to the oppression, poverty, racism, sexism, and inequality to which most people on this planet are subjected to. It is up to us to become what Giaconda Belli termed the portadores de sueños (in her poem) and to write the treaties, covenants, and other instruments that provide for an alternative and better future. We must ensure that our ‘space’ constitution is binding and that it binds those who wish us to be bound.
The idea of a Bill of Rights in Mars or a Constitution for Mars is not new. CS Cockell has argued in an Essay on Extraterrestrial Liberty that ‘the most profound irony of the settlement of space is that the endless and apparently free expanses of interplanetary and interstellar space will in fact allow for, and nurture, some of the most appalling tyrannies that human society can contrive Thwarting this tyranny will be the greatest social challenge in the successful establishment of extraterrestrial settlements’. He and others have previously gathered to discuss what a bill of rights for Mars would look like. Astrobiologists, it seems, may be ahead of us critically minded lawyers.
The race for space exploration is undoubtedly influenced by the destruction of the planet, and fears over climate security. The UN has recently held debates on water, peace and security. The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, principle 25 make it clear that ‘Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible’. Environmental peacebuilding recognises that conflict can be caused by or exacerbated by resource scarcity or resource abundance (for example, the war in Sierra Leone and its links to ‘blood diamonds’). More recently, General Recommendation No 35 (updating General Recommendation No 19 on violence against women) of the CEDAW Committee specifically recognises that:
Gender based violence against women is affected and often exacerbated by cultural, economic, ideological, technological, political, religious, social and environmental factors, as evidenced, among others, in the contexts of displacement, migration, increased globalization of economic activities including global supply chains, extractive and offshoring industry, militarisation, foreign occupation, armed conflict, violent extremism and terrorism.
As GR35 recognises, extractive industries exacerbate violence against women and girls. It is deadly. GR35 also recognises the role that corporations play when they operate extraterritorially. And what about when they operate extra-terrestrially?
So what then would a founding feminist constitution look like? How would it guarantee foundation against what bell hooks has termed the ‘white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’? Is it a democracy to come? Whose work should we draw upon to inform this constitution? Around the world, the brave, the portadores de sueños work on the ground against systematic violence. Activists and academics work together on feminismos territoriales, and the rights of women, forests, trees, and rivers. Who will protect their rights in Mars?
Keina Yoshida is a research fellow at the Centre for Women, Peace and Security. She is currently working on the AHRC funded project a Feminist International Law of Peace and Security.