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Multi-billion Dollar Trade Puts Women at Risk

The multi-billion dollar trade that puts women in the firing line

New report from the campaigns to Stop Violence Against Women and to Control Arms

Amnesty International and Oxfam will launch a report in Dunedin on 7 March 2005 detailing the price women are paying for the increasing proliferation and misuse of small arms.

The Impact of Guns on Women’s Lives report is being launched on the eve of International Women’s Day as part of campaigns to Stop Violence against Women (Amnesty International) and to Control Arms (Amnesty International, Oxfam and IANSA).

The report will spell out the circumstances in which women are most at risk from armed violence and examine the wide range of gun control measures adopted around the world.

Women are paying an increasingly heavy price for the dangerously unregulated multi-billion-dollar trade in small arms, according to a new report to be issued on the eve of International Women's Day, 8 March.

There are now estimated to be almost 650 million small arms in the world today, mostly in the hands of men, and nearly 60 percent of them in the hands of private individuals. Women and girls suffer directly and indirectly from armed violence:

An attack with a gun is 12 times more likely to end in death than an attack with any other weapon;
In South Africa, a woman is shot dead by a current or former partner every 18 hours;
In the USA, a gun in the home increases the risk that someone in the household will be murdered by 41%; but increases the risk for women by 272%;
In France and South Africa, one in three women killed by their husbands are shot; in the USA this rises to two in three;
Family killings are one category of homicides where women outnumber men as victims with her partner or male relative the most likely murderer.

"Women are particularly at risk of certain crimes because of their gender -- crimes such as family violence and rape. Given that women are almost never the buyers, owners or users of small arms, they also suffer completely disproportionately from armed violence. It is often claimed that guns are needed to protect women and their families but the reality is totally opposite. Women want guns out of their lives", said Denise Searle, Amnesty International's Senior Director of Communications and Campaigning.

The Impact of Guns on Women's Lives report spells out the circumstances in the home, in communities and during and after conflict where women are most at risk from armed violence. The report also examines a wide range of gun control measures adopted by states around the world usually as a result of the campaigns women are spearheading against gun violence.

Between 1995, when Canada tightened its gun laws, and 2003, the gun murder rate for women dropped by 40%;
Five years after the gun laws in Australia were overhauled in 1996, the gun murder rate for female victims had dropped by half;
Brazil has recently banned access to ownership of weapons before the age of 25 because young men and boys mostly perpetrate the massive level of gun violence.

"Rape has become a weapon of war. The reality for women and girls is that they are targeted in their homes, their fields, and their schools because of their gender. Without women's active involvement in any peace and reconstruction process there can be no security, no justice and no peace", said Anna MacDonald, Director of Campaigns and Communications at Oxfam Great Britain.

Based on examples of best-practice, the report makes a series of recommendations including:

Compulsory national gun licences for anyone wanting to own a gun in accordance with strict criteria that exclude all those with a history of family violence;
The prohibition of violence against women in national law as a criminal offence with the laws fully implemented and effective penalties for perpetrators and remedies for survivors;
The specific training of law enforcement organisations to ensure that they respect women's human rights and that those who do not are brought to justice;
The equal participation of women in all peace processes as well as in demobilisation, reintegration and disarmament programmes to ensure the effective collection and destruction of surplus and illegal weapons;
The establishment of an Arms Trade Treaty that would prohibit arms exports to those likely to use them for violence against women and other human rights violations;
The banning of private individuals from owning military specification assault weapons, other than in the most exceptional circumstances consistent with respect for human rights.

"There is a clear need to develop sustainable livelihoods which are not based on a culture of violence. This means alternative role models that do not equate masculinity with armed violence and femininity with passivity are needed",said Judy Bassingthwaite, Director of Gun Free South Africa, representing the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA).

The impact of guns on women's lives: Testimonies

"He was very angry and he took his Kalashnikov. The neighbours said: ‘Leave her alone’ But then he didn’t stop; he shot my legs, I could not feel them, they were numb. The sun was setting, I was looking at the sky, I said to the men: ‘I don’t want to die.’ They took me to the hospital."
Nineteen-year-old Fatima (not her real name) was shot in the legs by her husband in front of his family and their neighbours in Iraq on 21 May 2003. Married at the age of 12, she was treated as a servant and regularly beaten in her husband’s family home. She tried to run away to her own family, but her husband came and said she should go back. When she refused he became very angry and took a piece of wood to beat her. It broke, so he grew even angrier and took out his gun and shot her. Despite the number of eyewitnesses and the seriousness of the crime, neither the family nor the hospital reported the case to the police and her husband was not arrested. The family said it was a matter to be solved within the tribe.

"I was 14 years old then. One of the policemen came one night around 10pm, pointed a gun at me and ordered me to follow him to see the other men...The Commander... pointed his gun at me and raped me. I suffered pain and bleeding."
A woman from the Solomon Islands

"You call the police... And they tell him, ‘Oh come on, you know. Women get cranky.’... blah blah blah. And to me, they were saying,‘Why don’t you stop upsetting him? Make him a nice dinner and get off his back’... And so they’d leave you with a wild man."
A woman in Hawaii

"I’ve learned that there’s really little difference between violence in war and violence in peace -- for women it’s just the same. We need to continue our own battle until these women can join the rest of our society and enjoy a life without violence."
Duska Andric-Ruzicic, Director of Medica Infoteka, Bosnia-Herzegovina

"From one day to the next, my dreams were shattered -- all because of the irresponsibility of supposedly civilized men who only feel brave with a gun in their hands."
Camila Magalhães Lima, Brazil

"At night the other soldiers raped me. They came almost every night. They said that the more they raped me, the more they would be men, and the higher up the ranks they would rise."
Sange, who enlisted as a child soldier in the DRC with one armed group when she was 10, and was then abducted by another group

"Each morning, noon and evening, [the soldiers] would put us in the same house, force us to lie on the ground and then they would rape us, all in the same room. While they were doing this, they were hitting and kicking us in the stomach, back and face. My mother’s hand was broken; it is still swollen and she can’t use it. My buttocks are still painful and I can’t use my arm any more. There were twelve soldiers."
Caroline, 15 years old, from DRC. She and her mother were abducted on the way to their fields and held captive for two months in 2003.

The Control Arms campaign was launched by Amnesty International, Oxfam and the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) in October 2003. It aims to reduce arms proliferation and misuse and to convince governments to introduce a binding arms trade treaty.

The Stop Violence Against Women campaign was launched by Amnesty International in March 2004. It aims to secure the adoption of laws, policies and practices that stop discrimination and violence against women.

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