The #Armstreaty: an important opportunity to prevent gender-based violence at gunpoint

February 14 2012, 7:26 AM by Ray Acheson

64,000 women and girls are estimated to have suffered war-related
sexual violence in Sierra Leone’s civil war between 1991 and 2002.
Testimonies of women explain how the assaults were endured at
gunpoint. “They put their guns to our throats and stomachs to make
sure that we followed their orders,” one woman reported.

by the IANSA Women’s Network

Discussions towards the creation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)
present an important opportunity to better regulate the international
trade in the conventional arms and ammunition. Of these, it is most
often small arms and light weapons (SALW) that are used to facilitate
and commit various forms of violence and crimes against women , both
during and outside of armed conflict. These forms of violence violate
international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

If the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is to be an effective legal instrument
in regulating the international arms trade, recognition of the
specific potential impacts of international transfers on women and
their rights should be included. Such an approach would be consistent
with broader UN practice of the inclusion of a gender perspective. It
would also ensure that the international standards within the ATT to
regulate conventional arms comprehensively addresses the full range of
potential risks associated with trading and transfers.

The United Nations (UN) has progressively recognised the need to
acknowledge and address the distinct rights of women. UN frameworks
and initiatives accept the importance of mainstreaming a gender
perspective into all areas of its policy and activities. Increasingly
there is recognition that peace and security initiatives must be
foregrounded by the recognition of women’s rights and participation in
such processes. For example, the UN Security Council has developed an
overall women, peace and security framework that is progressively
being integrated into all of the Council’s work.

The Council also has recognised the need for more systematic attention
to women, peace and security commitments in its own work and expressed
willingness to ensure that measures are taken to enhance women’s
engagement in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and

The General Assembly has on numerous occasions expressed its concerns
about the pervasiveness of violence against women in all its different
forms and manifestations worldwide, noting that such violence
seriously impaired or nullified women’s enjoyment of all human rights
and fundamental freedoms.

How can the ATT prevent gender-based violence?

1. The preamble should recognise that the absence of absence of
commonly agreed international standards for the transfer of
conventional arms and their diversion to the illicit market are
contributory factors to armed conflict, serious violations of
international human rights law and international humanitarian law and
gender-based violence;

2. The criteria of the ATT should require States not to transfer arms
internationally where there is a substantial risk that they will be
used to perpetuate or facilitate a pattern of gender-based violence,
in order to ensure that the transfer decision making process includes
a risk assessment of the specific risks of a potential transfer on the
rights of women.

3. The criteria of the ATT should also require States not to transfer
arms internationally where there is a substantial risk that they will
be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international
human rights law or international humanitarian law. Where this is the
case, the transfer authorisation should be denied until there is clear
evidence that any risks have been mitigated.

4. In scope, the ATT should include the control of all weapons
including small arms and light weapons and ammunition.

5. In order for the ATT to be strong and effective, it should require
robust regulation of licensing systems. This includes, for example,
mechanisms for (a) prior risk assessment and authorisation; (b) the
use of end use assurances where necessary; and (c) brokering controls.

6. The ATT should require that all States keep records of the
international arms transfers that the national authorities have
provided formal authorisation and received clearance from customs

7. The Treaty should oblige States Parties to publish accurate,
comprehensive, timely and public national reports on international
transfers of conventional arms and steps taken to implement the
Treaty, in order to ensure transparency and accountability, build
confidence among States’ Parties, and enable relevant actors,
including civil society and women’s groups, to assess implementation,
access information and raise public awareness on these issues.

8. States should incorporate the knowledge and experience of different
civil society groups, including women’s organisations, in exchanges
and training programmes and initiate a more systematic approach to the
gathering of sex- and age disaggregated data.

9. An independent Treaty institution, such as an ATT Implementation
Support Unit (ISU), should be established. In addition to other roles
suggested, the ISU should:

– Conduct gender-inclusive outreach and engage civil society to
increase awareness of the Treaty regime and to promote the
universality of the Treaty, and;
– Promote civil society engagement and contributions to implementation
of the Treaty.

A strong and effective ATT will also reduce the diversion of
conventional weapons to the illicit market, specifically small arms
and light weapons (SALW) and should therefore complement and reinforce
the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms (UNPoA).

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