Monday, July 03, 2006

Tools of Opression - The Impact Of Guns On Women's Lives

This posting highlights a report on how small arms impact women and children.

The small arms trade is wickedly profitable dominated by wealthy westerners and has a devastating impact on the lives of women and children the world over. The report isn't overly long (76 pages,) it's comprehensive, a PDF, and it's available from here.

At the end of most of the chapters there are action points - things you personally can do organisations you can support campaigns they run and so on. Did you know that Amnesty have a specific campaign against violence against women? How much do you actually know about how gang culture impacts women? For example are American women at increased risk from gang members who signed up to serve the better to learn how to fight when they get home? What can we expect from those gang members. What happens to women after a conflict? (Answer: nothing good.)

The brutalizing effects of armed conflict do not disappear with the end of conflict. For returning combatants, both women and men, the transition from the violence of the frontline to home life can be extremely problematic. The return of male relatives, many traumatized and brutalized by the conflict, can bring violence directly into the home.

If men bring weapons home with them, the danger to women increases. A study in Northern Ireland showed that the increased availability of guns meant that more dangerous forms of violence were used against women in the home. SOS-Belgrade reported that men came back from fighting traumatized, angry and violent, and used the weapons they brought with them to threaten or harm women.

On this blog we focus especially on the fate of Iraqi women and children - how upset do you get at some of the photos we publish here? Are there legal obligations on combatants for protecting women and children? Yes there are actually and they don't just apply to soldiers and policemen:

"As a matter of customary law (law that is universally established to such an extent that it is binding on all states, whether or not they are bound by treaty law), basic human rights norms apply both to states and to armed groups within states, where they exercise de facto control over territory and take on responsibilities analogous to a government. Indeed, in a number of situations armed groups have expressly indicated their commitment to human rights principles. Some innovative approaches have been developed, by UNICEF (the UN Children’s Fund) in particular, to elicit commitments from some armed groups to abide by certain human rights norms, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Article 3 common to all four Geneva Conventions applies in all cases of armed conflict and reflects customary international law. Under it, armed groups, no less than governments, must never target civilians, take hostages, or inflict torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. More detailed rules for noninternational armed conflicts are included in Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions. Some armed groups have taken it upon themselves to respect rules of international humanitarian law. Whether or not an armed group has made a specific commitment, individual members of an armed group can and must be held criminally responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide or other serious human rights violations. The adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 1998 has greatly enhanced the prospects for a world where those who have committed such crimes, whether in the service of governments or of armed groups, will no longer be able to escape justice. [Page 50]"

Here's a list of the chapter headings and page numbers for easy navigation:

  1. Introduction 2 - Women, men and guns 3

  2. Armed violence against women in the home 10

  3. Law enforcers, guns and violence against women 22

  4. Gangs, guns and gender 28

  5. Guns ratchet up the level of violence against women 28

  6. Crimes against women in armed conflict 36

  7. The aftermath of war 44

  8. Legal background: the international framework 48

  9. The way forward 58 What can you do about it? 58

I don't plan on writing here often, I prefer to help out with the research and the technical end of things. But while the cat's away I might as well give you some something to read :-)


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