The Arms Trade Treaty: What about women?

This short article by IANSA women participating in the Arms Trade Treaty Preparatory Committee (ATT PrepCom) was published in the ‘Arms Trade Treaty Monitor’, a joint initiative of Reaching Critical Will of WILPF, Global Action to Prevent War, Oxfam International, and IANSA.

The Arms Trade Treaty: What about women?

Despite the obvious and recognized connections between women, peace and security, not to mention groundbreaking UN Security Council Resolutions, including 1325 declaring the importance of women’s participation in peace processes and women’s activism in the field of arms control, we again see how women and gender are being ignored in the process towards an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

The paper of the Chair of the ATT Prepcom, Ambassador Moritan, issued on 16 February 2011 is completely lacking any mention or acknowledgement of the relationship between women, security and arms control, nor the incidence of gender-based violence perpetrated or facilitated by conventional weapons, particularly small arms. Despite this, during the Prepcom and beyond, the IANSA Women’s Network will continue to draw attention to states on the particular impacts that the irresponsible trade in arms has on women, including gender-based and sexual violence both in armed conflicts and in non-war contexts.

However, the paper does acknowledge the potential consequences of the arms trade on internal, regional and international peace and security and emphasizes existing obligations in international law including UN Security Council Resolutions; international humanitarian law; and international human rights law. It also mentions transnational organized crime, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide.

International law includes women’s rights but these are not explicit within the UN Charter or the Geneva Conventions and other instruments of international law traditionally used by diplomats in the disarmament community. However, they have been recognized by UN Security Council resolutions and other binding instruments of international law and form part of international law that is relevant for the ATT. Under international law, all States have an obligation to prohibit the provision of conventional arms to any person or entity which would knowingly assist in the commission or the attempted commission of international crimes. This includes sexual violence. Under international law, conflict related sexual violence is a war crime, a crime against humanity or a constitutive element of genocide; it is an element of organized crime, as human trafficking and enforced prostitution. Sexual violence is a tactic of war that threatens international peace and security. In practical terms, it is the international human rights standard that states will be able to implement especially as gender based violence and states’ responsibilities to address it are framed in international human rights law. In this way, the prevention of sexual and gender based violence are inherently linked to the inclusion of a strong 'international law' standard. This would lead to the prevention and prohibition of transfers of arms if they are likely to be used to perpetrate acts of firearms-related sexual and gender-based violence. For example human rights law precedents now confirm that state failures to prevent and redress domestic violence violate human rights. In addition, states' human rights obligations are found in a range of international treaties including CEDAW which is specifically linked to women's rights and gender equality. Relevant international human rights instruments include:

- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women [CEDAW];
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women;
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
- Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crime of Genocide, 1948
- Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, Fourth World Conference on Women, 1995;
- Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others;
- Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women;
- Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) 1998
- Outcome document of the twenty-third special session of the UN General Assembly, Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the 21st Century, 2000;
- Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and; - UN SC Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889 and 1960.

The article was also published in the hard copy briefing of the ATT Monitor, circulated to UN delegates every morning.