Ensuring Women and Gender are reflected in the Cluster Munitions Treaty

9 May 2015

Ensuring Women and Gender are reflected in the Cluster Munitions Treaty
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

As the world’s oldest women’s peace organization, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) brings over 90 years of work towards disarmament to the campaign to ban cluster munitions. WILPF welcomed the signing of the February 2007 Oslo Declaration and has since closely monitored efforts to develop an international convention.

Our members looks towards the May 2008 negotiations in Dublin with hope and expectation for a strong and clear Treaty that a) contains a total ban on cluster munitions, b) supports the clearance and reconstruction efforts in all affected communities, and c) provides comprehensive assistance to victims of these indiscriminate weapons.

WILPF strongly believes there is a need for greater awareness of the unique problems facing women in affected communities – in barriers to medical care and risk awareness programs, social stigmatization and psychological trauma, divorce and abandonment, providing for dependents with little access to employment, and risks of extreme poverty.

WILPF therefore calls for the inclusion of a specific reference to UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security in the preamble of a treaty on cluster munitions, in addition to the reference to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, already included in the present draft. This will help ensure that gender mainstreaming and gender balance issues are duly considered in the formulation and implementation of cluster munitions policies and programs at all levels.

Men, women, girls, and boys are affected differently by the presence of cluster munitions in their communities, with women and girls often disproportionately affected. Experiences from the landmine process have shown that women are less likely to receive medical care, prostheses, and access to mine risk education. Women victims face divorce, abandonment, or stigmatization. Even when they are not victims themselves, the loss of a male relative or husband has severe economic consequences for women in many affected communities.

Gender influences the role an individual plays in their community, in their social and economic activities, and their likelihood of becoming a cluster munitions victim as well as their access to medical attention and risk education and awareness programmes. Data should be disaggregated by sex and age, in order to gain a more comprehensive and representative picture of the effects of cluster munitions on all individuals in affected countries. Women should have equal access to risk education programs.[1]

WILPF calls for the definition of cluster munitions victims to include both direct and indirect victims; persons injured and maimed, as well as their families, and their local community.  A broad definition will facilitate the development of programs that reach women, who all too often risk becoming “invisible” secondary victims. Implementing gender perspectives and considerations in the process will improve the effectiveness of a future instrument and its ability to protect civilians.  

Prohibiting cluster munitions resonates deeply within communities of activists promoting women’s rights and human rights as well as disarmament. Governments can depend on strong civil society support for their efforts to ban cluster munitions, a weapon that causes indiscriminate harm and leaves a legacy of mutilation and death long after conflicts are declared over.