Review Conference of the Programme of Action on Small Arms - PoA

Arms Trade Treaty - ATT




Direct Link to Full 4-Page Policy Brief:


Gender and Disarmament: Making Important Linkages to the ATT and PoA:

Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict (GAPW)

Katherine Prizeman, International Coordinator (katherine@globalactionpw.org)

Melina Lito, Director of the Women’s Project (melina@globalactionpw.org)

I. Introducing Disarmament through a Gender Lens

At GAPW, promoting a robust human security agenda demands that we develop practical measures for reducing levels of global violence and removing institutional and ideological impediments to addressing armed violence, mass atrocities, and severe human rights violations at the earliest possible stages. In all these priorities, particular importance must be placed on full participation of women at all levels of decision making. Human security concerns, including but not limited to diversion in the arms trade, nuclear weapons proliferation and atrocity crime prevention, are multi-faceted and synergistically connected such that they require a cross-cutting response with multiple points of entry. As such, these issues neither operate in a vacuum nor can they be solved in isolation. In particular, a robust human security agenda demands that all sectors of the population, most especially women, are provided with a dependable security sector such that participation in public life is both feasible and realistic.

Gender equality is essential to the creation of a reliable security sector, in particular incorporating women’s agency. Generally speaking, women are often under-represented in social and political life as they tend to have limited access to education, employment, health care services, reproductive rights, police and judicial protections. They are also often targets of rape and other forms of sexual violence.

1 In addition, traditional notions that women are subordinate or second-class citizens can have an impact on instances of family violence and abuse, forced marriage, and forced circumcision, among others.2 Integrating a gender lens into discussions on formation and sustainability of the security sector entails not only addressing women as part of vulnerable groups, but also encouraging the role of women as agents of change who have perspectives, skills and experiences to bring to decision-making in order to formulate effective security policies for both protection and holding perpetrators accountable.

Speaking to small arms control more specifically, more attention must be given to women’s agency as contributors to the reduction and prevention of the flow of illicit arms. Illicit arms are one of the most pervasive threats to a dependable security sector, and illegally diverted arms from the legal market contribute to vast quantities of violence, lawlessness, and conflict. Furthermore, it is a fact that women are often disproportionately affected by this violence. Whether in conflict or post-conflict situations, small arms, including diverted arms from the legal trade, can have a direct or indirect effect on women as carriers of these weapons, as victims of domestic violence, as victims of conflict-related sexual violence, and even as protestors or actors in resistance movements.3 Gender-based violence, violence that either targets a woman because of her gender or has a disproportionate effect on women, impacts discrimination against women as it can affect the enjoyment of their fundamental rights such as the right to liberty and security, equal protection, and many others.4 With that in mind, women’s participation in public and political life becomes increasingly more difficult, if not impossible, when communities are awash in illegal weapons and dependable security is elusive.

Promotion of the role of women in international peace and security, especially in political decision-making and peace processes, has been embedded in Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325, while SCR 1820 stresses that widespread and systematic sexual violence is a threat to international security.5 Women’s participation in disarmament policies has also been laid out in General Assembly Resolution 65/69, in which the General Assembly recognizes the contributions women can have in disarmament, non-proliferation, and arms control policies and encourages relevant stakeholders to promote women’s participation in all relevant decision-making processes.6 Furthermore, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women recalls that discrimination against women violates equality and is a barrier to participation. The Convention also reaffirms the commitment to disarmament and international peace and security,7 while the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has laid out in its general recommendations that states’ parties protect women from violence suffered in social settings, including family and work.8

Bearing this in mind, incorporating a gender perspective into all arms control and disarmament processes is nonnegotiable for GAPW. We seek to ensure that gender-related issues do not become exclusively ‘soft issues.’ A gender-balanced approach to disarmament, including full integration of women’s skills, energies and experiences into efforts to curb the illicit trade in conventional arms and other disarmament measures, must command a higher security priority. As our colleagues at the Women’s League for International Peace and Freedom (WILPF) have noted, gender-inclusive policies are necessary to effectively address these issues, while noting that gender-based violence is illegitimate and can seriously undermine the larger notions of peace and security.9 .............