ACTION: A Week Against Gun Violence, Mary 1-8
May 8, 2016
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
Small arms -- guns, rifles, etc. -- are a key part of the global armed violence epidemic, resulting in about half a million deaths annually. The manufacture, trade, proliferation, possession, and use of small arms facilitate gender-based violence, sexual violence, domestic violence, mass shootings, human trafficking, and armed conflict.
Action Against Gun Violence is Action Against Militarism
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
(May 1, 2016) -- Small arms -- guns, rifles, etc. -- are a key part of the global armed violence epidemic, resulting in about half a million deaths annually. They are, as activist Daniel Mack wrote recently, "the main vector of death and injury worldwide."
The manufacture, trade, proliferation, possession, and use of small arms facilitate gender-based violence, sexual violence, domestic violence, mass shootings, human trafficking, and armed conflict. They are also key factors in the development and perpetuation of violent masculinities and the militarisation of communities.
These challenges affect all of WILPF's work on disarmament, human rights, and women, peace and security. This is why over the next few days we will be writing about guns during the 2016 Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence, which runs from 1 to 8 May.
Hosted by the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), the week of action is an opportunity to highlight the international campaign to stop the proliferation and misuse of small arms, promote the effective implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (UNPoA), and raise awareness of the epidemic of gun violence and its consequences. The theme of this year's week of action is "Time to End the Deadly Flood of Guns."
Gender-based gun violence
Our work on challenging the international arms trade is a key part of WILPF's contribution to this theme of ending the flood of guns. We worked with IANSA Women's Network during the negotiation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to secure a legally-binding provision mandating arms export risk assessment processes to look at the risk of the weapons being used to commit or facilitate acts of gender-based violence.
Some people working on the treaty negotiations did not immediately recognise the link between the trade in weapons and gender-based violence. But every gun that is used, to commit any form of violence, came from somewhere -- it was produced, and then in many cases, transferred across borders. And there are clear links between the possession of small arms, both inside and outside of armed conflict, and the commission of acts of gender-based violence.
The UN Secretary General has highlighted this link for years in his reports to the UN Security Council. In his 2015 report, he noted, "Sexual and gender-based crimes are often perpetrated by armed individuals. Increased military or armed group activity can bring a greater risk of attack." The use of guns to facilitate rape in war has been documented increasingly in many different conflicts, from Bosnia to South Sudan and beyond.
But small arms also facilitate and aggravate domestic violence. Domestic homicides are the only category of homicides for which women outnumber men as victims. In countries with low rates of female homicide, most killings of women occur in the home, and intimate partners account for the majority, sometimes over 60%, of perpetrators.
LGBT people are also victims of gender-based violence. In 2015, more transgendered people were killed in the United States than any other year on record. Most of the victims were transgendered women of colour. While statistics on weapons used to commit GBV or murder LGBT people are difficult to find, a survey of reports indicates firearms are frequently used.
Culture of weapons
WILPF has recently published a new report looking at how states can implement the provision of the ATT that aims to prevent gender-based violence. But the problem with gun violence goes beyond the arms trade or the illicit trafficking in weapons. Guns are reflective of a culture of aggression and impunity.
"Guns do not need to be fired to be effective," Michael Ashkenazi of the Bonn International Center for Conversion argues. "The carrying of a gun often symbolises its use, or substitutes for its use far more effectively than does actual use, provided the willingness of the user to actually fire the weapon has been established."
This sounds very similar to the culture of nuclear weapons. A handful of states that possess nuclear weapons act as if the mere possession of these weapons of terror affords them a privileged position of authority, dominance, and security over the rest of us. They purport that nuclear weapons offer the world stability and safety when in reality they leave us all living under the threat of annihilation.
With the open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament about to begin its second session for the year, this is an important parallel to draw. Weapons -- small arms or nuclear arms -- are about power, not security. They are about control and dominance, not cooperation or equality. They in fact undermine security, cooperation, and equality. They detract from our collective humanity, facilitating divisions and violence.
We can see the trajectory of military technology taking us further in this direction, with the deployment of armed drones and the development now of lethal autonomous weapon systems.
Activism and advocacy
WILPF seeks to address the challenges posed by all of these weapons and the culture of violence and militarism through its work on disarmament and arms control. We recently participated in a meeting on autonomous weapons and now we're covering the nuclear weapon working group.
In June, WILPF will participate in the sixth meeting of states addressing the implementation of the UN Programme of Action on the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons.
We will be hosting an event on our new report looking at how the UNPoA and Arms Trade Treaty can help prevent gender-based violence. We will also monitor and report on the meeting and archive statements and other documents.
Subscribe now to receive the Small Arms Monitor daily during the meeting, 6–10 June! And stay tuned to this blog for more articles on gun violence over the next week!
Participate in the debate! Share your thoughts!
The Impact of Firearms on Women
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
May 4, 2016) -- The differentiated impact of firearms on women is rarely taken into account when addressing the firearms issue. Yet, firearms possession and use are clearly gendered: guns are mostly owned by men , and women killed by guns are likely to be killed in a gender-based violence homicide.
Firearms, femicides and gender-based violence
Firearms constitute an important threat to women's human rights. Indeed, firearm femicides can be strongly correlated with the level of firearms availability.
For example, on the frequency of intimate partner homicide-suicide, the rates in countries with wide availability of firearms, such as Switzerland or USA, are higher than in the Netherlands where the possession of firearms is very restricted. A fact even more striking: firearms are used in a third of all femicides worldwide .
Furthermore, firearms may also be involved in femicides as a way of intimidating or coercing the victim. Such cases are, unfortunately, severely under reported. In a study carried out in a region of Pakistan characterised by a high level of possession of firearms, it was found that women felt they were in danger not only because of gun violence, but also because of physical abuse.
It was found that guns are used to threaten women within the family more frequently than they are used to kill. Indeed, in intimate partner homicides, there is most generally a history of violence that did not however prevent the perpetrator from possessing a gun.
Moreover, the correlation between high rates of sexual violence and the flow of firearms has been demonstrated in countless examples.
Firearms and the patriarchal system
With men almost always the bearers of guns, power imbalances between men and women are further distorted. The threat that firearms represent to women both within the household and on the streets, to their lives, to their physical integrity and to their freedom is closely linked to the imposition of patriarchy.
Current levels of regulation or the implementation of regulation regarding firearms are not enough.
When it comes to civilian ownership of guns, measuring perceptions of firearms i.e. among Liberian women and men, show that both groups overwhelmingly referred to as guns as a threat to safety rather than a source of security . It is essential to strictly regulate the possession of guns and to implement regulations closely, by processes that must take into account the gendered aspects of gun possession.
Firearms constitute a threat for women's rights and security, but also represent an element, which reinforces the domination of men over women and this patriarchal system. A stronger regulation of firearms would reduce gender-based and domestic violence as well as femicide. Enforcing the Arms Trade Treaty, the UN Programme of Actions on Small and Light Weapons and other related UN Security Council resolutions would be a great step forward.
 Small Arms Survey, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. 2013. Chapter 2: Too close to home – Everyday dangers, small arms survey 2013. Cambridge University Press: page 30
 Matthias Nowak, Femicide: A Global Problem Research Notes Armed Violence Number 14. Small Arms Survey, 2012. http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/fileadmin/docs/H-Research_Notes/SAS-Research-Note-14.pdf
 Small Arms Survey, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. 2013. Chapter 2: Too close to home – Everyday dangers, small arms survey 2013. Cambridge University Press
Gun Violence: An Ongoing Challenge
To the Women, Peace and Security Agenda
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
(May 6, 2016) -- What does gun violence have to do with the Women, Peace & Security Agenda?
Six months ago, the Global Study on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) was launched at the fifteenth anniversary of UNSCR 1325.
The October 2015 Global Study provided the evidence base for action to implement the Women, Peace and Security Agenda and strengthening women's participation, protection, and rights across the conflict spectrum. A key recommendation was strengthening action on conflict prevention including demilitarisation as a key priority area.
As WILPF's disarmament program Reaching Critical Will has shown, small arms are part of a global armed violence epidemic. Small arms facilitate sexual and gender-based violence, human trafficking, and armed conflict, and are integrally tied up with violent masculinities and the militarisation of communities.
Yet six months after the Global Study, how far have we come in moving from words to action? This week's Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence provides an opportunity to assess where we are at on this this key area for conflict prevention and peace.
What did the Global Study say on Militarism and Arms?
The Global Study recognised that demilitarisation is a critical part of structural conflict prevention and addressing root causes of war. It found that militarism and cultures of militarised masculinities create a climate of political decision-making in which resorting to the use of force becomes a normalised mode of dispute resolution.
The Global Study called for member states to address inequality, arms proliferation, organised crime, and militarisation including by:
* implementing the Arms Trade Treaty's criterion on gender based violence (article 7(4)),
* implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on gender equality (Goal 5) and Stable and Peaceful Societies (Goal 16), and
* adopting gender responsive budgeting to address militarised state budgets and their destabilising impact on peace and women's rights in consultation with civil society
* provide financial, technical and political support to encourage educational and leadership training for men, women, boys and girls, which reinforces and supports non-violent, non-militarised expressions of masculinity.
Where are we now?
Today we have made some progress. Eighty member states have now ratified the 2014 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which obligates States Parties who transfer arms to assess the risk of arms being used to commit SGBV or "serious acts of violence against women" (Article 7(4)).
Almost all states have signed on to the international women's rights convention, CEDAW, which in General Recommendation 30 outlines state obligations to uphold women's rights in conditions of conflict, and includes a recommendation for states to sign, ratify and implement the ATT.
The 2015 Sustainable Development Goals include an indicator addressing reducing illicit arms flows (16.4). Other international norms, guidelines and international instruments exist to regulate small arms and light weapons.
Despite these promising developments, WILPF's PeaceWomen programme has brought attention to how many member states that purport to be "friends" of the Women, Peace and Security agenda continue to invest in militarism and arms, which directly facilitate sexual and gender based violence, conflict and war.
Three of the five permanent members of the Security Council have not ratified the ATT; indeed, China and Russia have not even signed it. The US, Russia, China, France and the UK were respectively the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th largest exporters of arms in the world in the years 2011-2015 and combined, the USA and Russia supplied 58 per cent of all exports.
In addition, recent trends to focus on gender-blind counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism threaten to blindly continue militarised approaches to state security that put at risk women's human security and peace.
As civil society has pointed out, action aimed at counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism has resulted in women human rights defenders and peace activists being labelled as potential terrorists; silenced legitimate, peaceful dissent; and raised concerns around reallocating funding away from the WPS agenda, women's human rights defenders and other gender-equitable social development.
What should be done?
As the Global Study recognised, civil society has affirmed "Women, peace and security is about preventing war, not about making war safer for women" (191). This requires substantially strengthening the conflict prevention pillar of the Women, Peace and Security agenda, to transform political economies of militarism and arms connected to violent masculinities for non-violent conflict resolution alternatives, gender justice, and peace.
A holistic understanding of conflict prevention includes strengthening small arms controls; further preventing SGBV by harmonising firearms laws with other national laws; and incorporating means to prevent the diversion of legal arms into the illicit market, since illicit arms remain a driver of modern armed violence and the vast majority of illicit weapons begin their lives as legal weapons.
As member states continue to take action around preventing terrorism and violent extremism, they should also recognise the constraints of militarised approaches. Instead, they should seek constructive alternatives, including through holistic gendered conflict analysis of the causes of conflict and violence, address injustices, and support peace-building and transformative governance based on rule of law, justice, and gender equality.
More than 15 years on from the adoption of the ground-breaking UNSCR 1325 and six months after the UNSCR 1325 Global Study, effective implementation of the agenda, especially in the area of conflict prevention remains a major gap.
Recognising the connections between arms proliferation and sexual and gender-based violence, and taking action to transform systems of violent masculinities and political economies of war is critical for transformational change.
As lead author of the UNSCR 1325 Global Study Radhika Coomaraswamy declared at the October civil society launch: " No to militarisation, yes to prevention – that is what women claim." It is time for states to listen, and take action.
 Relevant norms, guidelines and international instruments include, eg.: Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000) and its Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition;
United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (2001);
International Tracing Instrument (2005);
UNSCR 2117 Small Arms and Light Weapons (2013);
Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (1983);
Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention (1997);
Convention on Cluster Munitions (2008) 43 Arms Trade Treaty (2013);
UN Security Council sanctions (arms embargos);
General Assembly Resolution on Women, Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Arms Control (2014);
Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development (2006);
Oslo Commitments on Armed Violence (2010);
General Assembly Resolution A/RES/63/23, Promoting Development through the Reduction and Prevention of Armed Violence, 17 November, 200849 OECD's Armed Violence Reduction Lens.
 Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (2014).
 Aditi, Malhotra (2011). Aditi, 2011. Cited in Small Arms Survey (2015).
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