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[16days_discussion] Fw: Limit Arms Exports to Reduce Violence Against Women

KATHLEEN SLOAN kathleen.sloan at
Thu Jul 7 11:06:29 EDT 2011

This article speaks directly to 16 Days' theme of the last two years:  
militarism and violence against women.  It is vital to focus attention on the 
almost never discussed association between the use of guns to intimidate and 
exercise control and violence (generally sexual) against women.

Kathy Sloan
NOW Board of Directors
NOW Global Feminist Strategies & Issues Committee
UN Representative 

The availability of small arms increases  sexual violence against women. 
Therefore, gender based violence needs to be  central to international 
discussions on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), and states  must act to end impunity 
for armed violence against women.
© Reuter Stringer  Afghanistan  Administration
When you call for help, people hear but  they don’t come out to help when there 
are people with guns  around
Marie was gang raped on 10 June 2010.  “When you call for help, people hear but 
they don’t come out to help when  there are people with guns around,” she says. 

Her story is one of many others in  Amnesty International’s January 2011 report 
on  Haiti , entitled  “Aftershocks: Women Speak Out About Sexual Violence”. Most 
of the rape victims  interviewed were threatened by groups of men armed with 

Between February 28 and March 4 2011,  states gathered in New  York for the Arms 
Trade Treaty (ATT) Preparatory  Committee. Discussions on the ATT present a 
vital opportunity to examine the  tools used to commit acts of gender-based 
violence - most often small arms and  light weapons (SALW). Although many 
binding international instruments exist on  gender-based violence, these have 
not been taken into consideration by the  disarmament community. 

What impact do international transfers of  conventional arms and ammunitions 
have on women’s lives?
Marie’s story reveals the invisible  impact of armed violence: its impact on 
women’s minds, bodies and freedom. High  death and injury rates of men are the 
most obvious and visible effects of gun  violence. Yet what fails to appear in 
statistics is when guns are not used to  kill but to exert power; when guns are 
used behind closed doors to subjugate  family members; when guns are used to 
threaten adolescent girls with sexual  violence, forcing entire families to 
flee. What we fail to talk about, when we  talk about small arms, are the rapes 
of tens of thousands of women at gunpoint. 

There is a strong correlation between  carrying small arms and notions of 
masculinity, considered to be traditional  “gun-culture”. Armed conflict can 
change men’s views about what qualifies as  masculine behaviour: group pressure 
can amplify men’s aggressiveness and  inclination to treat women as inferior. 
Since almost all men are armed in times  of conflict, their weaponry can be 
implicated in the exercise of power over  women. 

In  Colombia , where  60 to 70 percent of women have experienced some form of 
violence in their lives,  the presence of guns in society is strongly linked to 
a patriarchal and  “machista” culture, which supports the notion that men need 
guns to defend  themselves and protect their families. Yet, instead of providing 
security, these  guns aid and exacerbate violence against women and girls, both 
during and after  conflicts.
Guns aid and exacerbate violence against  women and girls, both during and after 
During four days in the summer of 2010, a  mass rape occurred in Luvungi, 
Eastern DRC  (Democratic Republic of Congo). Nearly all of the 303 reported 
rapes were  described as having been perpetrated by groups of two-to-six armed 
men, taking  place in front of the women's children and husbands. It is 
estimated that 200  million small arms are in circulation in the Great  Lakes 
region with a heavy concentration in the east of the DRC. 

In Colombia, which has the second highest  number of internally displaced people 
in the world after Sudan, 2 out 10  displaced women identify sexual violence as 
the direct cause of their  displacement. In the armed conflict, all parties use 
sexual violence as a weapon  of war. 

In  Sierra Leone ’s  civil war between 1991 and 2002, 64,000 women and girls 
suffered war-related  sexual violence. 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.
In  Libya , rape is  also being used as a tactic to instill fear. “They (...) 
forced him to watch as  two of them took turns raping the woman,” recounted a  
Tripoli resident  describing the invasion of a family member’s home by four 
armed militiamen. 

The UN Security Council has recognised  that rape in armed conflict is a threat 
to international security. So why are so  many guns being sold to so many 
countries where rape is a strategy, a tactic to  dehumanise and subjugate?
"For women, war is not over when it’s  over."
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