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CEDAW Committee Enquiries Germany about Its Arms Exports

11 August 2016

Germany is the world’s third arms exporter. As such, it must prevent arms exports by companies within its jurisdiction that may facilitate or aggravate generalised violence against women and femicide in importing states.

Arms exports can have serious consequences on the rights and human security of women in importing states, particularly in the case of exports of small arms and light weapons.

The case of arms export to Mexico

WILPF is particularly concerned by the case of exports of firearms produced by the company Heckler and Koch to Mexico.

Divers mechanisms of protection of human rights both of the UN system and the regional system have warned that Mexico is in a serious human rights crisis and that there is a situation of generalised violence, probably fuelled by the “war on drugs” initiated in 2006.

Different forms of violence have been spread in the country including enforced disappearances, torture, murders, kind-napping, extrajudicial executions of men, women, children, migrants, human rights defenders and journalists.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights pointed out that this problem is linked to complex phenomena such as: the high militarisation of the country and the presence of criminal structures. The proliferation and easy access to firearms constitute for the Commission one of the main factors for the aggravation of violence in Mexico. [1] The crimes with firearms increased by 55% between 2013 and September 2014.[2]

Reality of femicide violence with firearms in Mexico

Mexico ranks the 23rd in cases of femicide in the world. In cases of femicide perpetrated with firearms they are in 10th position.[3] In the last six years, the highest rates of femicide have been registered in the States of Chihuahua, Guerrero, Baja California and State of Mexico.

A study by UN Women and the National Institute of Women about femicide in Mexico points out that one of the main concerns is the increase of the use of firearms to commit homicide against women in the country, doubled between the years 2004 and 2010.

The study concludes that women are at higher risk if their families and communities are armed.[4]

The control system and the regulation of weapons in Mexico are not effective to assure that these cannot facilitate or be used to commit serous acts of violence against women. For example, in Mexico the factor of gender-based violence is not part of the procedures to expedite licences to carry firearms. Additionally, it is important to point out that in Mexico there is an important black market of firearms outside of the control of the State.

Previous scandals with German arms exports

In 2006, 2,025 G36 assault rifles were exported by Heckler and Koch to the National Defence Secretariat of Mexico. At the time, a condition was establish for the export: that the assault rifles were not used or distributed to 4 States in Mexico: Chihuahua, Guerrero, Baja California and Chiapas, States with high levels of violence.

However, it has been determined that some of these German rifles were used by the State police in the State of Guerrero the night that the disappearance of the 43 students in Ayotzinapa. This evidences that german weapons can be used in the current context of human rights crisis in Mexico and more concretely in cases of femicide.

The case is currently under prosecution in Germany and the Attorney’s office in Stuttgart claims that the limitation regarding the distribution within Mexican territory was breached with the knowledge and connivance of the german company Heckler and Koch.

Arms exports case brought to CEDAW Committee

WILPF has recently made a statement explaining to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee the situation of arms exports from Germany, and lack of appropriate previous assessment during a pre-session of a review of Germany by this Committee.

After the pre-session, the Committee has told Germany: “According to information before the Committee, there are several areas where operation of German companies abroad has a negative impact on the human rights of women. Please provide information on the regulatory framework, which ensures that operation of German industries and companies, do not negatively affect human rights or endanger environmental, labour and other standards, especially those relating to women’s rights. Please also indicate the steps taken: a) to integrate a gender dimension in strategic dialogues with the countries purchasing German arms; b) to conduct gender sensitive risk assessments, in accordance with the Arms Trade Treaty (2013), in order to mitigate the potentially negative impact on women’s rights of arms transfers to countries marked by armed conflict or risks of such conflict; c) to protect the rights of all women and girls, in particular in rural areas, in international food value chain production, as well as in the context of its development cooperation policies and programmes.”

What next?

WILPF will now work closely with WILPF Germany and partners to establish a full report on German arms exports to Mexico and other countries where there are high rates of femicide and the Committee will finally review the full human rights situation of women in relation to Germany in February.

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We will keep you posted on it!

Tell us your opinion: what other arms transfers do you know that should not have been allowed? Have there been prosecutions for undue arms transfers in your country?


[1] Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Informe de país: México, situación de derechos humanos, 2015

[2] Arriaga Carrasco Paulina y otras Mujeres víctimas de violencia armada y presencia de armas de fuego en México. Resultado a nivel nacional y estatal 2011-2014. Observatorio Nacional de Violencia armada y género. México D.F, 2015.

[3] Global Burden of Armed Violence : Every Body Counts, 2015

[4] Femicidio en México, aproximaciones, tendencias y cambios, ONU Mujeres México, Instituto Nacionales de las Mujeres, 2014.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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