Power to Women in Peace Processes

Women's Organisations Cooperating in Realising Resolution 1325

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WILPF Sweden's acting secretary general Josefine Karlsson is prominent in IKFF's project FörATT, which strives to raise awareness regarding a stronger international weapon treaty. Sign says: To increase women's security, a strong weapon regulation is required.
FOTO: Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Sweden (IKFF)

A unique opportunity for weapon control and women's security

WILPF Sweden (IKFF) is currently running a campaign called FörATT. The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness for a stronger weapon and arm's treaty (Arms Trade Treaty, ATT). The negotiations, which will take place at the UN headquarters in New York this July, constitute a historic chance for member states to acknowledge the link between weapons and women's lack of security. Realising this opportunity would mean taking a large leap forward for women's security and participation.

"Isn't it about everyone's security, not only women's?". I got that question the other day on a demonstration for ATT. And yes, of course it is about everyone's security. The enormous spread of weapons prevents the security of individuals and states, and the development in many conflict and post conflict countries. But for us as a feministic organisation, it is important to lift the dimension of gender perspectives within this issue. It especially concerns the presence of small and light weapons (SALW), weapons that can be carried and used by one or two persons.

SALW is produced, transmitted and used mostly by men. Men are also those that are the majority of casualties due to use of small and light arms. But women are also threatened and killed by SALW, and in this case we can see an unproportional pattern: women use these kinds of weapon to a much lesser degree than men, and they rarely participate when policies and praxis regarding weapon regulation and disarmament are negotiated. While boys and men are faced with the highest probability of being victims to armed violence on the streets or on the battlefield, women are the most likely group to fall victim to violence in their own home.

There are approximately 900 million weapons in the world today and 25 % of those are within the police, military and other governmental authorities. In other words, 75% of the world's weapons are in the hands of individuals. Small and light weapons are used both by governmental and non-governmental to threaten, hurt and kill women. They work as a brutal insurance of already unequal power relations between men and women. The weapons are to a large extent used in systematic sexual violence, which the president of WILPF DR Congo, Annie Matundu Mbambi, has commented with the words: "A man with a machete in a village can rape one woman. Two men, one with a machine gun, can rape a whole village". The connection between weapons and sexual violence has also been established by the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, who argues that lack of disarmament reinforces violence.

Since weapons generally affect women and men differently, it is important that women participate in decisions regarding weapon control and disarmament. This has also been recognised by the UN General Assembly in resolution 65/69 "Women, disarmament, weapon control and non-proliferation", which can be seen as a part of the implementation of resolution 1325.

Josefine Karlsson
Acting secretary general of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Sweden (IKFF)