Putting women at the heart of an Arms Trade Treaty

Jasmin Galace is from the Centre for Peace Education in the Philippines. Last July, her campaigning was fundamental to ensuring that the prevention of Gender Based Violence was included in the first draft of an Arms Trade Treaty. With the final version due to be agreed later this month, Jasmin marks International Women’s Day by explaining how she got involved in the campaign for this Treaty, and why including gender language in the text is vital to its success. Join Jasmin in campaigning for an Arms Trade Treaty

Years ago, when I first heard of an Arms Trade Treaty, I was part of a small team conducting what we called ‘people’s consultations’. We were going to different communities across the Philippines, places actually affected by armed conflict, by armed violence, by gun proliferation. We wanted to see what the people who confronted this destruction daily would want included in a Treaty to control the arms trade. As a peace educator I was aware of the impact of armed violence on people’s lives. But this was when I heard the fear. And I knew I had to do something. 

As the consultations went on, my resolve to campaign for this Arms Trade Treaty grew ever stronger.

We were told of the huge number of incidents of gun violence, and heard loud and clear the desire of the people that something would be done about it. This was especially significant in a country where political dynasties are many and strong, and these dynasties have private armies;  armies emboldened by the fact that they have an arsenal of weapons. 

I know people who have died because of gun violence – students, colleagues, friends. Childhood friends. They or their loved ones have perished because of arms proliferation or gun violence. As it continued I told myself, Something has to be done. And the Arms Trade Treaty is a concrete solution. It’s not a panacea that will solve everything, but it is a huge step in the right direction. 

Much like many people involved in this campaign, there are certain things I want to see included in the Treaty. For me, it must include specific language preventing the transfer of arms where there is significant risk that they will be used to commit sexual or Gender Based Violence. And women must be involved in the process.

Why Gender Based Violence? 

Men and women are differently affected by armed violence. Women are particularly affected by sexual violence, especially in situations of armed conflict. That, for me, is why sexual violence has to be there in the Treaty text - to protect women from sexual and gender based violence. 

But it’s not only women who are affected in conflict situations. Men are also violated, they are also victims of violence, so they have to be included. You cannot just give protection to women; that’s very limited. It has to be Gender Based Violence because gender is socially constructed.

Why women? 

For a long time, the ascent of peace has been decided by men. But is peace here in our hands? Not yet. So I also want the gender language there in the Treaty because the world needs women to participate in the implementation of this Treaty. 

We make up 51% of the global population but we are not heard in terms of peace making. My hope is that the Arms Trade Treaty says something about women’s meaningful participation in its implementation, because the voice of women has to be heard. This is what I am fighting for.

A plea from me to you

I earn nothing from my involvement in this campaign. My involvement is a choice of the heart. I am driven by the fact that by being part of this campaign we’ll be able to save lives. So, please lobby your government as I am lobbying mine. Urge the UK to close the loopholes in the existing text. Ensure that gender language is included in the Treaty. Do whatever you can to ensure we get this Treaty and together start on the road to a more peaceful world. 

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