Inclusion of gender-based violence in the #Armstreaty hangs in the balance

July 24 2012, 7:01 AM  by Oistein Thorsen

During the negotiations at the July 2012 Diplomatic Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, the issue of the inclusion of language referring to the impact of the conventional arms trade on gender-based violence has increasingly been the subject of vigorous debate. 

The Chair’s Discussion Paper of 3rd July, which has served as the basis for much of the negotiations over the past three weeks, only mentioned gender-based violence within the Preamble. As of the beginning of the final week of the conference, however, a total of 61 States have pushed for the inclusion of gender-based violence specifically in Criteria.

Amongst the States who have championed the inclusion of gender-based violence in the section on Criteria are: Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Finland, France, Gabon, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Mexico, Nigeria on behalf of ECOWAS (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo), Norway, Peru, Portugal, Samoa, Somalia, South Korea, South Sudan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago on behalf of CARICOM (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname), Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Zambia.

Iceland went even further saying that gender-based violence should be included in three places in the treaty text; in the Preamble, in the Goals and Objectives, andin the Criteria. A number of States have either also supported inclusion of Gender-based violence in the Preamble of the treaty text, or supported it only in the Preamble, including: Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Austria, Turkey, Belgium, Sweden, Botswana, Denmark and New Zealand.

Those who supported inclusion in Goals and Objectives included: Botswana, Togo, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Liberia and Iceland. Australia made a statement on the importance of gender-based violence, but did not specify where they wanted it to be included in the treaty. The United States said the reference to gender-based violence makes sense with regard to SALW, but not conventional arms and that this still needs to be made clear in the text. The Solomon Islands suggested the treaty include the alternative text: “women and children as members of vulnerable groups”.

The Holy See were vehemently opposed to the inclusion of the text “gender-based violence” on the grounds that “gender” is not a judicially defined concept, but one that is “vague” and “ambiguous”, and not a concept that can be used in a legally binding treaty. But they did suggest an alternative text: “violence against women”. Algeria, Iran, Egypt, Venezuela and the UAE also said that “gender-based violence” should be replaced by “violence against women”. South Africa said the Criteria should not specify “gender-based violence” but should refer to “violence against all”. Pakistan, DPRK and Syria were opposed to the inclusion of a reference to gender-based violence entirely.