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18.9.2021 : 9:26 : +0200

Violence, Women, and Guns

25 November: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Of the estimated 66,000 annual homicides of women committed each year, roughly 40 percent involve firearms. Guns are even more commonly used to injure, intimidate, and coerce women.

However, the relationship between women, guns, and violence is often more nuanced than the simplified portrayal of women as victims.

A number of recent Small Arms Survey studies have examined the complex relationship between women and guns, and the links between armed violence in the broader community and gender-based and sexual violence. 

Small Arms Survey 2014: Women and Guns

The 2014 edition of the Small Arms Survey’s flagship publication explores the varied roles of women in the context of armed violence, security, and the small arms agenda. A short video complements the volume, featuring interviews with contributors and authors of the thematic chapters.

Small Arms Survey 2014: Women and Guns includes an investigation into violence against women and girls, with a focus on post-conflict Liberia and Nepal, finding that attitudes that condone this form of violence often pre-date conflicts. These attitudes are reinforced during wars and often persist long after hostilities end. In Liberia, for example, women are twice as likely as men to assert that a husband is sometimes justified in beating his wife. This suggests that many women have been socialized to accept domestic violence.

‘Gender equality would be a prerequisite for the reduction of violence against women,’ said Research Director Anna Alvazzi del Frate.

Another chapter discusses the recent convergence of the small arms agenda with that of women, peace, and security. It discusses the implications and implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which urges increased participation of women, and a greater focus on gender perspectives, in all UN peace and security efforts, and the ramifications for the small arms agenda.

An illustrated section combines artwork with accounts of women’s personal experiences as soldiers, rebels, and security personnel.

Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, endorsed the volume, saying, ‘The Small Arms Survey 2014 offers important insights into how and why armed violence continues to plague the lives of many women and girls around the world—along with some of the options we have for building a safer future.’

Women and Guns — overview video

Small Arms Survey 2014: Women and Guns considers the multiple roles of women in the context of armed violence, security, and the small arms agenda.

Guns and Intimate Partner Violence

While the majority of the victims and perpetrators of firearms-related homicides are male, many more women than men are killed, injured, and intimidated by firearms in the context of intimate partner violence

In many cultures, the possession of guns, whether in a personal or a professional capacity, is strongly associated with traditional notions of masculinity that convey authority, privilege, prestige, and power. Yet the presence of guns in the home increases the risks of accidents, murder, and suicide for family members, and they play a significant role in the intimidation and long-term abuse of female partners. These realities have yet to significantly influence policy-making on gun violence prevention in many contexts.

'Too Close to Home: Guns and Intimate Partner Violence,'  a chapter from Small Arms Survey 2013: Everyday Dangers, highlights the relationships between guns, violence, and intimidation by intimate partners. It reviews what limited data exists on the use of firearms in intimate partner violence)—whether to kill, injure, or intimidate. It also considers the gendered nature of firearm ownership and use, and the cultural supports for gun possession by men.

Women and Gun Ownership

Policy and research dealing with the relationship between women and firearms usually stress the role of women as victims. Of the estimated 66,000 annual homicides of women committed each year, roughly 40 percent involve firearms. Guns are even more commonly used to injure, intimidate, and coerce women.

Although some women own and use guns, policy and research on firearms tend to focus on the role of and effects on men.

The Small Arms Survey Research Note Women and Gun Ownership shows that women account for a much smaller proportion of gun owners than men, and that women are not as aware of—or not as willing to acknowledge—the presence of firearms in homes and communities.

The study discusses issues relating to gender regarding data gathered from firearm registration and from household surveys, and women’s perceptions of firearms in the home and the community.

Violence against Women and Girls in Liberia

Violence against women and girls—which was a widespread and sinister feature of atrocities committed during Liberia’s 14 years of civil conflict—has long been a serious problem in the country, both prior to the hostilities and since.

Peace without Security: Violence against Women and Girls in Liberia, an Issue Brief from the Small Arms Survey’s Liberia Armed Violence Assessment project, examines the extent to which women and girls in Liberia are victims of crimes and violence, with a specific focus on the patterns and characteristics of sexual and domestic violence.

The analysis is based on the results of a nationwide household survey conducted by the Small Arms Survey, in collaboration with Action on Armed Violence and the Liberian Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, complemented by data from other information sources, notably the Ministry of Gender and Development’s GBV database, set up and managed with Norwegian Refugee Council support.

It finds that survivors of sexual violence tend to be far younger than survivors of domestic violence and other violent crimes, averaging 16 years of age; however, rape of girls less than 10 years old is not uncommon. This compares to an average age of 27 for survivors of domestic violence and 28 for survivors of all other violent crimes.  Perpetrators of sexual violence and domestic violence are generally considerably older than their victims, averaging approximately 25 and 33 years of age, respectively. 

Battering, Rape, and Lethal Violence in Nairobi

Almost one-half of Kenyan women have experienced physical or sexual violence, including forced sexual initiation. Much of the violence is barely acknowledged, let alone investigated and prosecuted. Extreme and even fatal acts of violence—targeting poor women in particular—are common enough to be considered unremarkable, a non-issue for the media, the political class, the police, and by extension, the Kenyan state.

The Working Paper Battering, Rape, and Lethal Violence: A Baseline of Information on Physical Threats against Women in Nairobi documents what is known about the three types of violence, examining the prevalence, perpetrators, and the circumstances surrounding each.

The report reveals a pattern of attacks that range from socially accepted disciplining—such as slapping—of women by their intimate partners, to extreme domestic violence using crude weapons, rape, gang rape, and sadistic methods of sexual and non-sexual torture, resulting in mutilation or violent deaths. Many Kenyans have yet to acknowledge and discuss these issues, and open dialogue about the prevalence and extreme nature of violence targeting women is almost non-existent.

        Tackling Violence against Women

        Widespread both in conflict and non-conflict situations, violence against women has devastating effects on individuals, communities, and on economic and social development generally.

        Tackling Violence against Women: From Knowledge to Practical Initiatives, from the Secretariat of the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, discusses the need for specific initiatives to address this global problem.

        In non-conflict situations, women are often victims of intimate-partner (or ‘domestic’) and sexual violence, honour killings, and dowry-related violence.

        The economic and social effects of armed violence are devastating. In addition to the costs of lost productivity, medical treatment for injured victims, and loss of income, women especially suffer additional indirect effects. In many situations, when their husbands are killed, women and children lose access to their homes and livelihood, and are forced to choose prostitution, commercial labour, or domestic servitude in order to survive.   

        The report discusses violence against women in the context of the Geneva Declaration, focusing on the relationship between armed violence against women (VAW) and development.  It then sets out five possible initiatives to fill research gaps in the area: supporting international initiatives to track VAW globally; promoting field-based research on mapping VAW; developing improved costing tools for estimating the effects of VAW on development; extending the work on a contextual appraisal toolkit for implementing VAW interventions; and supporting a comprehensive evaluation toolkit for VAW prevention and reduction progr

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