by Rebecca Gerome | NYU Law Students for Human Rights and WILPF
The 26 July draft’s language on women and gender is so weak that it risks representing a significant step backwards in global efforts towards gender equality. As WILPF has noted before, the only mention of gender is in 4(6)(b), which only provides for optional consideration of “feasible measures,” generating a legal contradiction with 4(2) on human rights and international humanitarian law. States’ existing obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill women’s rights are not subject to optional considerations. Read the article by Maria Butler and Sofia Tuvestad here.
Furthermore, the preamble only recognizes the “vulnerability of women and children”. We have noted before that this wording is not only unhelpful, but it is regressive. It represents women as helpless victims, rather than active agents and leaders in arms control initiatives. In the face of the threat of conventional weapons, everyone is vulnerable. Women, men, girls, and boys are all affected in different ways, and the gender dimensions of the arms trade must be recognized. Gun possession and use is often associated with violent masculine gun culture, exacerbated in times of war and conflict. While men are the overwhelming majority of gun users as well as direct victims of gun injury and death, women suffer more invisible effects of gun violence—the long-term psychological, sociological, and economic impact as well as direct violence at gunpoint, including rape and domestic violence.
As states consider how to best incorporate language on gender in the Arms Trade Treaty, they should look to the Cartagena Action Plan, adopted in 2009 at the Second Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty, ratified by 161 countries, as a useful example.
The Action Plan makes no mention of “vulnerability of women and children”. Instead, the document emphasizes the involvement of women and men in implementation (Action #15) and the need to promote and enhance the capacity of the women, men and associations of victims (Action #30). The document also contains multiple mentions of gender in various sections:
· Preamble: “Pursuing a gender-sensitive, age-appropriate, inclusive, coherent and coordinated approach to the development and implementation of relevant national policies, plans, legal frameworks and instruments of international law.”
· The section on “Clearing Mined Areas” calls on States Parties to provide “gender-sensitive” mine risk reduction and education programs (Action #19).
· The section on “Assistance to Victims” calls on States Parties to provide “adequate age- and gender-sensitive assistance to mine victims” (§ 12) and “ensure the continued involvement and effective contribution in all relevant convention related activities by (...) gender experts (...) inter alia by supporting the inclusion of such expertise in their delegations.”
· The section on “International Cooperation and Assistance” calls on States Parties to “ensure that international cooperation and assistance, including development cooperation is age-appropriate and gender-sensitive” (Action #41) and ensure that assistance in mine action is based on appropriate surveys, needs analysis, age-appropriate and gender-sensitive strategies and cost-effective approaches (Action #52).
· An “Additional Actions” section calls on States Parties to ensure gender sensitization in all aspects of mine action (Action #55)
As it stands, the Arms Trade Treaty would be a step backwards for women. The wording on gender-based violence in 4(6) should be moved into article 4(2) and the preamble language should be changed. It could for example, recognize “the gendered dimensions and impacts of the arms trade, particularly gender-based violence, including rape and other forms of sexual violence,” and further emphasize and reaffirm “the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peacebuilding.”