The importance of gender-based violence
It is now common knowledge that gender-based violence is often used deliberately as a tool to carry out and intensify violence. In fact, there are approximately 66,000 victims of gender-based killings of women every year and there is a direct correlation between gender-based killings of women and the use of firearms. Women are not only killed by arms, but are also targeted in crimes such as rape and other forms of sexual violence like trafficking and slavery. In 2009, UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon said that, “Like a grenade or a gun, sexual violence is a part of the arsenal of parties to armed conflict to pursue military, political, social and economic aims. Beyond the enormous toll on victims, sexual violence in armed conflict hurts recovery and peacebuilding.”
Gender-based violence and the Arms Trade Treaty
If the Arms Trade Treaty is to be an effective legal instrument in regulating the international arms trade, it must include strong references to gender and address risks of gender-based violence and a responsibility to prevent gender-based armed violence.
Many Control Arms members and partners supported the inclusion of a criterion on gender-based violence in the ATT. This requires States to ‘not to allow an international transfer of conventional arms where there is a substantial risk that the arms under consideration are likely to be used to perpetrate or facilitate acts of gender-based violence, including rape and other forms of sexual violence’. As such, during the upcoming Final Conference in March 2012, Control Arms advocated for a stronger language that will make this criteria binding.
Including a gender-based violence criteria within the Arms Trade Treaty was a significant topic of negotiations. More than 100 states gave a joint statement calling for such a criteria. As a result, the text of the Treaty, includes two references to gender: The first reference is in the preamble paragraph 11, reminding the states to bear in mind that ‘women and children are particularly affected in situation of conflict and armed violence’. The second reference is in Article 4.6b, and asks states to consider taking feasible measures to avoid the arms ‘being used to commit or facilitate gender-based violence or violence against children. Unfortunately, the term “feasible measures” is not very strong.
Growing awareness among member states regarding gender-based violence
Numerous countries have referenced gender based violence in their presentations during the UNFC First Committee debate on Other Disarmament Measures and International Security, especially in light of the Security Council resolution 2117 from September 26, 2013, which stated that “the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons fuel armed conflicts and have a wide range of negative human rights, humanitarian, development and socioeconomic consequences, in particular on the security of civilians in armed conflict, including the disproportionate impact on violence perpetrated against women and girls, and exacerbating sexual and gender-based violence and the recruitment and use of children by parties to armed conflict in violation of applicable international law”.
Danish Ambassador Uffe Balslev delivered a rousing speech regarding the link between gender and disarmament and the need to further integrate women into efforts to combat and eradicate the illicit arms trade. He highlighted the ATT as a major step forward in shaping member states’ views on the importance of the gender based criteria in international security and expressed his disappointment that this achievement was not reflected in other resolutions on conventional disarmament, especially resolution L.7 on Women, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation.
In his statement, Amb. Balslev declared: “It is our hope that we have put those years behind us where the gender perspective was largely absent from disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation processes. Men and women are affected differently by weapons and armed conflict and their contribution to disarmament efforts will be different and complementary. (…) There may be small pockets of opinion in this committee who still argue that these issues belong elsewhere and are not part of the core occupation of the United Nations Committee responsible for Disarmament and International Security. They must have been living on Mars. Nothing could be more wrong. It is about time it is reflected in our work.”