The #ArmsTreaty: Why Women?

May 25 2011, 9:50 AM  by Oistein Thorsen

In a resent article in Open Democracy, Sarah Masters of IANSA’s Women’s Network argues that it would not be possible to rape women in front of their communities and families, on such a large scale in much of the world’s conflicts, if the availability of small arms and light weapons was controlled. An extract of the article is featured here on the ATTmonitor.

Despite the groundbreaking UN Security Council Resolutions such as 1325 declaring the importance of women’s participation in peace processes and women’s activism in the field of arms control, women and gender are being largely ignored in the process towards an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

The week before the the ATT Prepcom in New York in February, the Chair of the Prepcom, Ambassador Moritan, issued a paper that lacked all mention of the relationship between women, security and arms control and the incidence of gender-based violence perpetrated or facilitated by conventional weapons, particularly small arms. Throughout the Prepcom the issue of gender was brought up by many states, including Mali, Nigeria and Norway, and Australia, arguing for an ATT to address the impact of armed conflict on women in accordance with existing international commitments such as UNSCR 1325, 1820, 1888 and 1889 on women, peace and security. The IANSA Women’s Networkproposed three possibilities to include gender-based violence in the “Criteria” section of the ATT:

“A State party shall not authorize a transfer of arms if there is, in the view of the potential transferring State, a substantial risk that those arms would:…”

  1. Be used to perpetuate or facilitate high levels of gender-based violence, in particular rape and other forms of sexual violence.
  2. OR Be used to perpetuate a pattern of or facilitate high levels of firearms-related homicide, serious injury or gender-based violence.
  3. OR to be included in existing Criterion (): Be used to commit or facilitate violations of international humanitarian law, in particular/including gender-based violence, including rape and other forms of sexual violence.

International law includes women’s rights, but these are not explicit within the UN Charter or the Geneva Conventions and other instruments of international law used by diplomats in the disarmament community. However, they have been recognised by UN Security Council resolutions and other binding instruments of international law and form part of international law that is relevant for the ATT. Under international law, all States have an obligation to prohibit the provision of conventional arms to any person or entity which would knowingly assist in the commission or the attempted commission of international crimes. This includes sexual violence. Under international law, conflict related sexual violence is a war crime, a crime against humanity or a constitutive element of genocide; it is an element of organised crime, as human trafficking and enforced prostitution. Sexual violence is a tactic of war that threatens international peace and security. In practical terms, it is the international human rights standard that states will be able to implement that will lead to the prevention and prohibition of transfers of arms if they are likely to be used to perpetrate acts of firearms-related sexual and gender-based violence.

Click here to read Sarah’s complete article.