EWL News

The Arms Trade Treaty: Securing women’s rights and gender equality

[Brussels, 02 July 2012] EWL members from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) have joined forces with the IANSA Women’s Network, Amnesty International and Religions for Peace to call for a call for the explicite inclusion of gender-based violence in the criteria of the International Arms Trade Treaty. According to the joint policy paper, a criterion in the Arms Trade
Treaty should require States 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.

Extracts from the policy paper are below.

"On Saturday [18 December 2010] they took me and five other women into a room. It was in the morning.
There were three of them. They told us to undress. I refused. One of them hit me with his knife. I told him it
was not human. He said: ‘We will see about that’. He took his gun out and I was obliged to yield. The three
men raped us, they wore masks. Afterwards, they left and we were kept in the house until Wednesday [22
December]. Every day, a gendarme brought us something to eat. They returned on Monday [20 December].
It was the same men; I suppose it was the same men. It was late in the afternoon and they raped us again.
On the evening of 22 December towards 5pm, they released us. I have not dared to go to see a doctor since
then."

1. Introduction

Irresponsible transfers of weaponry, munitions, armaments and related equipment across borders have
resulted in the loss of millions of lives and livelihoods and the violation of fundamental human rights. In
particular, the widespread availability of small arms and light weapons increases the risk to both men and
women’s security, and impedes their enjoyment of their civil, political, social and economic rights in
different ways. There is a gender dimension to the trade whereby women are disproportionately affected by
armed gender-based violence.

July 2012 presents a historic opportunity as Member States of the
United Nations (UN) gather to negotiate an Arms Trade Treaty
(ATT) meant to establish common international standards for the
import, export and transfer of conventional arms.2 Achieving an
effective ATT is an urgent necessity. The ATT will require States to
authorize international transfers of conventional arms in conformity
with an agreed list of clear criteria that assess a range of potential
risks stemming from such transfers. A key issue for the July
negotiations is which criteria will be included.

There are specific gender dimensions and impacts of the arms trade,
and therefore it is critical that the ATT directly and appropriately address this. Accordingly, there should be
strong references to gender in the treaty text and the criteria in the treaty should address risks of genderbased
armed violence.

This paper will briefly outline why the ATT should require States 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. Some key questions in the risk assessment process should include whether there is an
effective regulatory system to control arms and prevent such violence, and whether there is evidence
of acts or patterns of gender-based violence.

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Loud and United to end violence against women and girls, European Women’s Lobby Conference, 6 December 2017, Brussels.

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