“The area that we lived in was being bombed and they had snipers on all the high buildings, so anybody who moved would be shot. There were no schools, no hospitals, no electricity, no water, nothing at all. Everything was broken, ruined.” – Um Ali, Syrian border, Lebanon (Source: Save the Children)
“Many pregnant women are losing their children during this war, they are bleeding out because they cannot reach help.” – Maha, Syrian border, Lebanon (Source: Save the Children)
Women and Explosive weapons
Today, we’re releasing a new report examining the unique impact on women of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. We wrote the “Women and Explosive Weapons” report in order to ensure that women affected by the use of explosive weapons receive the same attention, recognition, and treatment as men.
What do we mean by explosive weapons?
Explosive weapons in populated areas have devastating effects on lives of civilians. These types of weapons are today used in most armed conflicts and result in 80–90% of civilian casualties when use in populated areas.
The survivors of explosive weapons continue to suffer from many kinds of long-term challenges such as disabilities, psychological harm, and social and economic exclusion.
The use of these weapons also has an overwhelming negative impact on infrastructure such as housing, schools, hospitals, and water and sanitation systems, resulting in devastating long-term effects on people’s lives far beyond the conflict itself.
Where and how are they used?
On of the most urgent ongoing situations where explosive weapons are being used is in Syria. It’s been three years since the war in Syria started, and according to UN data, 93 000 people were killed between March 2011 and April 2013. Today, the numbers are much higher than that.
It’s estimated that a third of these deaths are likely to have been due to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. While it is clear that consequences of the use of these weapons are devastating for whole communities, WILPF knows that women’s experiences in conflict tend to be overlooked or ignored.
What kind of impact do explosive weapons have on women?
The methods and nature of armed conflict can transform the perception of women as active members of a community or a household into passive victims requiring protection. This tends to result in considering women, often grouped with children and the elderly, as passive and helpless.
Research done on landmines shows that women tend to face a higher risk of stigmatisation and marginalisation due to their injuries and also have more limited access to emergency care and longer-term rehabilitation assistance. Major destruction of health care structures has been identified as having a particular devastating effect on women, in particular in relation to accessing maternity care.
What is WILPF doing to address this issue?
Our belief is that there is great potential for further concrete work in the area of gender and disarmament. Gender is a crosscutting issue, relevant to everything that the disarmament community works on. Gender considerations range from who participates in disarmament negotiations to the specific gendered impact of weapons.
The Women and Explosive Weapons report is a part of the broader work of WILPF focusing on enhancing the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda through achieving disarmament and respecting human rights.
Read more about our work on gender and disarmament on the Reaching Critical Will website