Thursday, July 26, 2012

The ATT gender debate: out of step with the global community?

by Lily Gardener, Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

The conventional wisdom that war and peace are of men’s domain is no longer valid. It never was true, but as the world witnesses evidence of the contribution of women to practical disarmament and arms control measures carried out at the local, national, regional, and sub-regional levels in the prevention and reduction of armed violence and armed conflict, the role of women becomes more concrete. Women will continue to play a stronger role in promoting disarmament, non-proliferation, and arms control; therefore it is only logical that an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) includes the dimension of gender. 
As many delegations have argued over the course of the ATT negotiations, and has been written repeatedly in the ATT Monitor, the arms trade affects everyone – men, women, boys, and girls – in different ways. This difference must be reflected in the text of any treaty if it is actually meant to be what governments are working towards: a “robust” and “strong” legally-binding agreement. The best way to incorporate their gendered effects of this arms trade is with the inclusion of the term “gender-based violence” (GBV) in the text of the treaty. As noted in other ATT Monitor articles, GBV recognises the broader context and some of the fundamental root causes of the violence. It allows rigorous assessment of the kinds of abuse of power that are perpetrated when small arms and light weapons are unregulated. As stated in Rebecca Gerome and Vanessa Farr’s article in yesterday’s Monitor, “violence does not happen in a vacuum”. Violence must be considered in the context of the origins and its hierarchical social relation to race, gender, sexuality, and class.

The ATT negotiations have seen many delegates speak about the impact of the arms trade in their countries. As also noted the Gerome and Farr article, statistics show that men account for around 80-90% of homicide victims globally and that GBV disproportionately impacts women and girls. However, there are variations to this across cultures, countries, and regions. Not all victims of GBV are female; men are harassed, beaten, or killed because they fail to conform to a socially acceptable view of masculinity. GBV includes violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. GBV is more likely to occur when the perpetrator is carrying a small arm or light weapon. Yet, this information is useless unless it is applied during the development of policies that can diminish the incidence of GBV. Therefore, anything other than the inclusion of GBV, such as the term “violence against women,” is unacceptable, as it will only reinforce stereotypes of women as weak and childlike rather than recognising the strength of women as active members of communities.

The inclusion of GBV in article 5 in the draft circulated on 24 July is unacceptable. To suggest that optional measures should be taken to avoid GBV, rather than obligating the state party to deny the transfer if there is a risk, is distasteful. Member states must not take steps backwards on this issue. The international community cannot accept anything less in preventing all forms of GBV in the context of the international arms trade. Therefore GBV must be included in all parts of the ATT, namely the Preamble, the Goals and Objectives, and the Criteria section.