Whether we find ourselves in times of conflict or peace, militarism impacts us all and continues to be a source of violence, particularly for women. This is especially true in regards to domestic violence, which is drastically exacerbated by the proliferation of small arms.

This year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign highlights the linkages between gender-based violence and militarism through our Campaign theme, From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Gender-Based Violence! Coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University, the 16 Days Campaign serves as a global advocacy campaign to increase awareness about gender-based violence and call on governments to respond, protect, and prevent such violence. To date over 4,100 organizations in 172 countries have participated in the Campaign.

16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign logo

Campaign priority areas include: (i) the role of state actors as perpetrators of gender-based violence; (ii) sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict settings; and (iii) the proliferation of small arms and their role in domestic violence.

Violence from small arms is everywhere and supported by a culture of militarism that makes their presence acceptable. There are approximately 875 million small arms in circulation today, 75% of which are in the hands of private individuals, mostly men, and stored in homes. Small arms are much more likely to be used to intimidate and/or physically injure family members than be used against an outside intruder. In fact, research shows that having a small arm in the home increases the overall risk of murder by 41% and for women in particular the risk nearly triples. Worldwide, approximately 60 percent of all violent deaths are committed with firearms, representing about 245,000 firearms deaths per year.

Moreover, for every woman killed or physically injured by firearms, many more are threatened.  For example, according to a 2007 study from Montenegro, of 1500 women seeking assistance from women’s shelters, 90% were threatened with small arms by their partners.  Similarly, following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Port-au-Prince saw an increase in the number of sexual violence against women and girls at gunpoint.

This year’s 16 Days Campaign provides us the opportunity to take action to dismantle the systems that support the proliferation of small arms and the violence they perpetuate:

  • Advocate: Disarm perpetrators of domestic violence, and advocate for domestic violence laws that require the removal of guns.
  • Treat domestic violence as a serious crime, and protect and support women who report it.
  • Train law enforcement officials to address armed intimate partner and family violence sensitively, effectively and lawfully.

For the 2012 16 Days Campaign, CWGL joins WILPF—and women’s and peace groups across the globe—in challenging militarism, ending gender-based violence, and promoting a culture of peace.

WILPF International will be bringing 16 journals to you – a new one every day of the campaign, beginning tomorrow.

By Julie Ann Salthouse, Program Coordinator on Violence Against Women, Center for Women’s Global Leadership

Check out the WILPF International website daily for the chance to read a journal entry. These will be from a variety of sources, ranging from our Sections around the world, to our programmes Reaching Critical Will and PeaceWomen, and experts in the field of gender based violence.