United Nations: Treaty to Prevent Arms Trade in Gender-based Violence
Monday, April 8, 2013 10:50 AM

A new Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) recognizes that gender-based violence and the international arms trade are inherently linked. “Weapons increase the risk of gender-based violence, including sexual violence, and impede women’s political participation around the world. The Treaty’s explicit provision on gender-based violence not only recognizes the links between such violence and the arms trade, but makes it illegal to transfer weapons if there is a risk, for example, that the weapons will be used to facilitate rape,” said Ray Acheson, the head of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s (WILPF) ATT work. The General Assembly adopted text for the first Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations with a vote of 154 in favor, 3 against, and 23 abstentions. The treaty prohibits the sale of arms if there is a risk that the weapons could be used to commit or aid violations of international humanitarian or human rights law.

The UN process for an Arms Trade Treaty began in 2006. During the ATT process, WILPF pushed to have the text of the treaty recognize the connection between weapons and gender-based violence. WILPF ran a campaign requesting that the prevention of gender-based violence be made legally binding in the treaty. WILPF’s hard work paid off. The treaty will open for signature on June 3, 2013.
The treaty still contains some limitations, as the final text was developed as a consensus of all countries in the world and therefore less comprehensive than some would have liked. Its scope is narrow and its provisions covering ammunition, munitions, parts, and components are not all-inclusive. Madeleine Rees, Secretary-General of WILPF says: “The ATT process has shown a significant international mobilization against the negative humanitarian and human rights impacts of the international arms trade. Now, we must implement it with the strongest possible interpretation in order to do what the treaty first set out to do, reduce human suffering.”