Promoting gender equality in the implementation of the UN Arms Trade Treaty
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) welcomes the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) as a first step towards regulating international transfers of conventional weapons, parts and components, and ammunition (hereafter referred to as “arms”). Thanks to WILPF’s and our partner organisation’s hard work, the ATT is the first-ever treaty to recognize the link between gender-based violence (GBV) and the international arms trade.
The ATT fills a gap and builds bridges between regulating the arms trade and enhancing human security. It provides a potentially useful tool to protect human beings and their rights by reducing and preventing armed conflict and armed violence. However, WILPF called for the Treaty to be more robust and comprehensive. Careful interpretation and implementation will be essential to avoid that the ATT legitimizes the international arms trade, especially irresponsible transfers.
If implemented with the highest possible standards, the ATT has a great potential to contribute to a holistic approach that responds to today’s challenges to human security. WILPF calls on all states to ratify and implement the ATT in a consistent and transparent manner. The UN system must take the Treaty into account in all of its organs, including its human rights bodies, in order to ensure that the implementation effectively contributes to preventing human suffering.
Gender-sensitive risk assessments under the ATT
The ATT acknowledges the gendered impact of the uncontrolled flow and widespread use of arms. Article 7(4) of the Treaty mandates exporting states parties, as part of the risk assessment process, to take into account the risk of the conventional arms under consideration being used to commit or facilitate acts of GBV or violence against women. States parties shall not authorize a transfer where there is risk of such violence when it constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law (IHL) or international human rights law (IHRL), when it undermines peace and security, or when it forms part of transnational organised crime.
Armed GBV and violence against women
Article 7(4) was included in the Treaty due to the overwhelming recognition of the fact that acts of GBV, perpetrated by both state and non-state actors, are facilitated by the irresponsible and unregulated transfers of arms. These acts can occur before, during and after conflict, in the domestic as well as in the public sphere. Accordingly, states parties must assess the risk for gender-based violence during as well as outside conflict situations, including domestic violence.
Due to gender hierarchies, women and other groups that are already marginalised and discriminated against, often find themselves increasingly targeted during armed conflicts. These groups risk even higher exposure when their social infrastructure disappears due to loss of family, housing, and shelter. They become increasingly vulnerable to physical attacks and sexual exploitation.
When insecurity is widespread, and in particular when the danger of sexual violence is rampant, weapons represents a constant threat to women on the streets as well as in the home. This link between proliferation of in particular small arms and light weapons (SALW) and GBV, has also been recognised in the agreed conclusions from the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), as well as in the UN Security Council resolution 2117 (2013) on SALW. In UNSCR 2117, the Security Council recalls with grave concern that the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation, and misuse of SALW exacerbates sexual and gender-based violence.
The presence of weapons in households, virtually always in the hands of men, represents a threat to women, as sexism and domestic violence tend to intensify in situations of conflict and militarization. Furthermore, the proliferation of arms has a negative impact on women’s mobility and participation. Women often face threats when claiming their right to participate in conflict resolution, peace negotiations, and reconstruction processes. Their political participation is impeded by acts of gender-based violence, making such violence “both a cause and consequence of low levels of women’s participation in all decision-making and, in fact, participation in day-to-day life.” (Cook; 2009) The trade and proliferation of arms facilitates GBV, prevents women from fully participating in the public and political life, as well as hinders their economic empowerment.
Conducting gender-sensitive risk assessments
Ensuring that gender-sensitive risk assessments are conducted prior to any authorization of arms transfers, will be a key obligation for states parties to the ATT. States parties should clearly include, in their national export regulations, references to the gender provisions of the ATT stating it mandatory for all stakeholders to apply these provisions. As part of this, all states should request that UN entities include a gender perspective in their reporting and implementation efforts on international arms control and disarmament, and that the gendered impact of the international transfer of arms is included in UN reporting and implementation efforts on gender equality and women’s rights.
For the full GBV criteria implementation assessment please read; ATT Implementation
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