Arms Trade Treaty - the gender dimension

‘[T]hey 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,’ - a woman in Ivory Coast speaking to our researchers, March 2011.

Time and again we’ve told you that to be effective the Arms Trade Treaty being negotiated at the UN this month must contain a rule that states arms shall not be transferred where there is a substantial risk they will be used to commit human rights abuses.

But what does that really mean?

The quote above is a painful and tragic example of the ways in which arms are used on a daily basis to contribute to violent violations of human rights, often by the very authorities charged with protecting civilians.

And gender-based armed violence has a seriously disproportionate effect on women

Get it right and better protecting women’s rights is just one of many things the Treaty can contribute to.

Protecting women, protecting rights

That’s why we’re calling for the Treaty to contain specific criteria preventing the transfer of arms when they are likely to be used to commit gender-based violence. And we have some significant support.

But to try to shore up some more we’re running a lunchtime event at the UN today where the lucky folks in New York will hear from some key experts in the field. 

Want to know why it's so important?

Here are just a few reasons:

Rape as a weapon of war is commonplace. Sexual violence against women is used in Ivory Coast systematically by government and opposition forces alike. The use of this ‘weapon’ has been greatly intensified by the flow of small arms into the country.

Sexual violence is used to supress demonstrations. In 2009 a peaceful protest at the Conakry stadium, Guinea, was broken up by security forces who used sexual violence against protestors – raping some at gunpoint. One perpetrator was quoted as saying it was to teach protestors ‘a lesson’.

Guns are used in domestic violence and murder. In Guatemala, where violence against women is committed with impunity, 69% of women murdered are killed with firearms. At least 4,400 women have been killed in the country since 2004 and despite clear evidence that small arms are fuelling this horrendous violence, transfers continue.

Preventing arms transfers where there's substantial risk they might be used for any of this short but shocking list? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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