NEPAL: Impact of Small Arms on Gender

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Telegraph Nepal
Southern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

1. Facts:

Small arms:
Small Arms mean the weapons that a single and individual can carry and operate. For example revolvers, self loading pistols, rifles, carbines, assault rifles, sub machineguns, light machineguns and associated ammunitions[1]
Light weapons means that can be operate two or three people. They may include heavy machine gun, hand –held under barrel and mounted grenade launcher, portable anti- aircraft and missile launcher, explosives, anti personal mines and ammunition for all of these.

It is estimated that 56 percent of SALW worldwide are in legal civilian possession and 43 percent are legally head by state security forces. Nongovernmental opposition group illegally holds less than 1 percent. The world wide estimated number of SALW, except landmines is 640 million and 230 million landmines are stockpiled. People Affected Most By Small Arms

· Over 80 percent of all these casualties have been civilian
· 90 percent of civilian casualties are caused by small arms. This is far higher than the casualty count from conventional weapons of war like tanks, bomber jets or warships.
· Estimates of the black market trade in small arms range from US$2-10 billion a year.
· Every minute, someone is killed by a gun
· At least 1,134 companies in 98 countries worldwide are involved in some aspect of the production of small arms and/or ammunition.
· Civilians purchase more than 80% of all the firearms that are currently manufactured worldwide each year.
· There are at least 639 million firearms in the world today, of which 59% are legally held by civilians.

(Source :

2. Global Effects of Small Arms: A Gendered Perspective

Every year, throughout the world, roughly half a million men, women, and children are killed by armed violence – that's one person every minute. Approximately 500,000 persons are killed each year with small arms — 300,000 in "conflict” and 200,000 in murders, suicides and accidents. Recently released statistics show that the number of small arms in civilian possession far outnumbers those in the possession of States and police. Research also clearly shows that the availability of small arms increases the lethality of conflict whether between warring factions or individuals. The proliferation of small arms also contributes to a culture of violence and a cycle that is difficult to break. Violence fuels insecurity; insecurity fuels violence. The negative consequences of the proliferation and misuse of small arms are an impediment to economic development, provision of health and education services as well as the development of effective governance and democracy.

a. Impact of small arms in general
Mostly men, women, boys and girls are exposed to small arms violence in a number of different ways. During and after conflict in the time of peace and other criminal activities women, men and children suffer as victims, witnesses and perpetrators. They have experiences of different forms of violence.
Men own most guns. Male, adolescents and young men constitute the vast majority of perpetrators and direct victims of armed violence, all over the world. They form the vast majority of those killed and injured in conflicts, as well as in non-conflict armed violence.

According to the World Health Organization estimation 90% of gun homicide victims are men and boys.
Women and girls suffer most of the indirect consequences of armed and other forms of violence. But women and girls also become involved in armed violence. They participate as combatants, army and polices, join gangs or obtain small arms to protect themselves against crime. Women can also perpetuate hatred, encourage violence and promote the possession and misuse of small arms. It is important to be aware of, and challenge where appropriate, the stereotypical view that women are the peaceful and nurturing sex, and men the more violent. It is also important to recognize the actual and potential roles of women in small arms and light weapons control, which often go unrecognized in the male-dominated areas of small arms and light weapons control, peace building and DDR.

b. Gender and Small Arms
When we talk to small arms first of all it is necessary to understand gender and its affects, which increase violence. We need to know causes of violence in conflict and in peace, particularly where small arms are concerned. While small arm casualties increases among women and children significant both in war and in 'peace', the vast majority of victims of gun violence worldwide are men. At the same time, women are targets of certain types of violence as a result of their gender. Moreover, some forms of violence against women are unique and an understanding of these dynamics is the key to effective intervention.
Many statements have been shown that impact of small arms increases in following situation.

c. Conflict and Gender
Conflict always increases armed violence all over the world. Though there are very limited data available on the casualties of war and what is available must be used cautiously. The available empirical evidence suggests that civilians account for between 30 and 60% of injuries requiring hospitalization, depending on the context. In addition, in studies available on small arms injuries during and post conflict. The majority of victims are adult males. An important finding in these studies is the fact that following the cessation of conflict, firearm injury rates remain high, as interpersonal violence often substitutes for violence between warring factions. Gender is relevant to understanding the effects of conflict with small arms because the experience of violence is different for men and women. Women's experiences of conflict are different; they often have more in common with women from opposing sides, than with the men in their own societies.” In Kashmir, for example, one female respondent noted: sides have guns, they shoot each other, and they both die. But the problem remains.” In Nepal women were engaged themselves as warring parties as combatants. In many conflict there is substantial evidence that women are not just passive observers. While they may not be active combatants, they often support armed conflict. Women are often strategic targets in conflict. Gender-based violence during conflict is sometimes presented as evidence of the way in which militarism and misogyny are intertwined.

d. Gender and Sexual Violence

Sexual assault and abuse is a crime in which women represent a disproportionate number of victims and where small arms are often facilitators. For example, aside from the unreported cases, the number of women raped was estimated at 20,000-50,000 in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Much attention has been focused on the causes of gender-based violence and suggestions include: the underlying acceptance of violence against women, the polarization of gender roles during conflict, tile breakdown of social structures and the notion that women are property. Guns are used extensively as part of sexual violence against women as evidenced by the significant increases in rape and sexual assault in South Africa. Women are used as informers to attack army barracks and police booths in Nepal. They are used as a subject to lead conflict. Many young women are sexually abused and raped in armed conflict period.

e. Gender in Domestic Violence
Worldwide, women are more at risk from violence at the hands of intimate partners. In four out of five intimate partner homicides in Australia the perpetrator is male and the victim female. Women account for the majority of victims in domestic violence worldwide. A number of studies have suggested that the risk of being murdered by an intimate partner increase with the availability of firearms. In Nepal also there are some cases being murdered by their intimate partner because of the easy viability of gun at present. But there is no proper data in Nepal. In other countries like South Africa, there are more women shot at home in domestic violence situations than are shot by strangers on the streets or by intruders. Studies have shown that in the United States 55% of women killed by their intimate partners are shot, in Brazil it is 46%, in Canada it is 25%.

f. Gender and Crime
The majority of victims of most crimes, including murder, are men. In many countries, small arms are the weapons of choice. The sub-population of men are often particularly affected. For example, in the United States, guns are the leading cause of death among young black men (15—24 years old). Studies of injury in South Africa have shown men lobe almost 90% of firearm murder victims. Women are the targets of particular types of criminal violence, often involving small arms. There are a number of kinds of violence where women are more likely to be victims because they are women. These include domestic violence and sexual violence. Historically, justice Systems have often overlooked violence against women and human rights standards have tended to carve out a private sphere' free from state intervention. However, for many women, that is the sphere in which they are most at risk. Traditional constructions of crime' and the criminal element' and the media focus on random acts of violence have tended to downplay domestic violence. Feminists have argued: “Most homicides are not random acts of violence and most guns used to commit murder are not smuggled or illegally owned. In fact, in most cases legitimate gun owners own them. Is it not true that domestic abuse and domestic homicide are criminal acts? Their friends and neighbours as law-abiding, responsible people usually perceive the men who commit these crimes and many of them own guns legally. But when a man abuses his spouse, he commits a crime, whether he is prosecuted or not.”

Many countries have very limited data-collection capacity and do not track victims by age or gender. Nevertheless, a variety of data sources suggest that the problem is widespread. While there are always methodological questions, a number of victimization surveys indicate that the rate with which women have reported being assaulted in the past year is high: Belgium (25%), Norway (25%), New Zealand (17%), USA (28%), Republic of Korea (38%), Malaysia (39%) Papua New Guinea (58~67%), Barbados (30%) and Columbia (20%). Many of the assaults are by individuals known to the victim.

g. Gender and Fear of Violence
Freedom from fear is a fundamental human right and women in most societies express more fear about violence than men and this in turn has secondary effects. For example, despite the fact that statistically men are more likely to be victims of violence, Canadian women expressed more fear that “you or someone in your household would be threatened or injured” (36% men, 59% female). Indeed, there have been efforts to exploit this fear in marketing guns to women.

h. Gender and Suicide
In industrialized countries, the mortality rates for suicide with firearms are greater than the mortality rates for homicide with guns. Firearms are the weapons of choice in many countries when men commit suicide and the increased lethality of firearms often accounts in part for the gender differences in suicide rates.

3. Armed violence and gender in Nepal:

Before Maoists insurgency, Nepal was considered a peaceful country without major armed violence. Possession of small arms required to have licence from district administrative offices. However, during Maoist conflict, illicit arms were imported from neighbouring countries, looted from the state securities and people, who were holding licensed arms. State also imported additional arms and armies to control armed violence or conflict, from which there was increased the number of displacement of the people, rape of young girls using weapons, foreign migration etc. After the declaration of armed insurgency by the Maoists in 1996, state security increased the atrocity and terror among the people in those affected areas using arms. In those Maoists insurgency affected areas of the districts of Rolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot, Gorkha and Sindhuli, police commandos entered many houses, arrested men and sexually abused, and/or raped young women to terrorise them.

The impacts of conflict have dealt even more unexpected and far-reaching blows on women, irrespective of whether it is women who joined as combatants or were related to men taking part in it, or due to their residence in particular the conflict affected areas, or their own or their family members' political beliefs or their ethnic and economic backgrounds. Socially and economically girls and women became overburdened with responsibilities. Women became heads of households and solely responsible for their families as men and young people were compelled to leave their villages due to fear of being caught in the conflict between state security forces and the Maoists. Women began taking up work traditionally restricted to men including plugging and performing funeral rites. With increased food insecurity, women and girl's health deteriorated resulting in malnutrition and severe anemia. Educational opportunities for girls further diminished due to displacement and fears of kidnapping, forced induction and being caught in cross fires. With little education and no skills girls were often forced into exploitative jobs.

Abduction and torture, rape and sexual abuse by both parties involved in war became widespread; forceful abduction within the insurgent party increased; intimidation, murder, terror and forced displacement, number of widows, as well as women ‘forced to lead the family and sometimes become the sole caretakers of children and elders during conflict situations'[2] soared. More than 4,000 women lost their husbands, and hundreds of women were raped by parties in conflict[3]. Even today many internally displaced people, many of whom are women, have not been able to return home, and thousands are facing mental distress and trauma. About 50,356 people were displaced by the end of 2004, the greatest number in Mid-Western Development Region.
More than 13,347 people had been killed by the end of 2006, approximately 8 per cent of them women and more than 3 per cent children. Even after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in November 2006, another 551 people were killed in 2007 and 541 in 2008. Of the total people killed during the period of Maoist insurgency, 10,297 were men and 1,013 were women while the gender of 2,034 people were not verified, as they were killed during the clashes and were buried or taken by the conflicting parties in an attempt to hide the identity of the deceased. Even after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace

Agreement (CPA) in November 2006, another 551 people were killed in 2007 and 541 in 2008. Similarly, of the 84,969 people abducted, 2,087 were women; while the identity of 69,403 people abducted during the period was not known[4]. To date, there is no accountability for the thousands of crimes of sexual violence and other appalling human rights abuses committed during the insurgency. Splinter groups arising across the nation are worsening the situation. One such impact is on women in the Tarai region, where hundreds are reportedly facing rape and abuse.

4. Problems of small arms and trade in Nepal

Legally speaking, Nepal has very strong laws and regulations against the purchase and ownership of small arms. There are strict procedures for licensing and renewal. However, the main question is how to prevent the illegal trade of small arms through the 800 mile long open border with India in the east, west and the south, and the possibility of such trade from the geographically difficult but technically feasible northern border with China. Even before the start of the Maoist insurgency, the use of illegal small arms in the Nepal-India border had been common, particularly in relation to ordinary crimes. Nepal has since become a paradise for illegal arms traders from the Middle East to Afghanistan and from Pakistan to India itself. It is only very recent that both the governments in Nepal and India have started talking about mobilizing the armed forces to control any type of illegal trade.
In Nepal, the issue is the complete regulation and control of the Nepal-India border, which would be against the provision of the 1950 Nepal-India Peace and Friendship Treaty which provides for an open border and free movement of citizens from both countries without any travel documents or proof of identity. It is particularly difficult to control the illegal trade of small arms when there is a demand and a huge financial Interest and corruption in the government and in defence agencies.

a. Consequences of Small arms on gender in Conflict:
In 2004 a survey was conducted jointly by IHRICON, HURDEC and INSEC in 35 Districts. This survey brought the fact that the conflict has caused serious psychological sickness amongst women, children as well as to members of the security forces. About 20 questions relating to the symptoms of psychosocial trauma and 8 relating to psychological sickness were asked. People of three age groups from four castes were involved in the survey. According to survey women and men both expressed that all have been affected by the presence of SALW in their villages. 46% of the respondents expressed that girls and women have faced more problems than men and that the impact of violence on men and women was different. While men admitted to an increase in alcohol consumption, and stress from keeping themselves safe from forced recruitment or looking for ways to survive economically, women expressed feelings of depression and increased insecurity. Gender differences are indicated by the responses: 15 percent women expressing psychosomatic symptoms while only six percent men had done so. 38 percent women shared that they had increased suicidal feelings while only 16 percent male respondents expressed that. Single women whose husbands have fled or been killed, expressed great emotional stress due to a double burden of fear and an increase in workload and income insecurity.
After 2001, when state of emergency was imposed in the country and army came out from barracks, again human rights violence increased in the country. People were terrorised by both side in the villages. Disappearances, force migrations and displacement were increased in the country. Gender based violence as well as sexual violence increased rapidly in many places. Survival in the village became increasingly tough. Government security damaged the life of the people torturing them on the name of giving shelter to the Maoists.

b. Use of small arms in Nepal since 2006 to till now
Within four years of the signing of the CPA there are more than 125 arms groups in existence and they are increasing in every region of Nepal. Most of these groups have easy access to a supply of arms and explosives that they are frequently using to terrorizing the people of the local community. Currently there are many ordinary young people who have weapons in their hands. They are using these weapons as part of a campaign for extortion, abduction and killing ordinary local people and demanding a ransom so that they can make money to buy more weapons. Gun ownership has also seen an increased domestic violence and rape within the community. Despite the fact that the communities want this violence to be stopped, no-one has the courage to file any cases in the courts. These criminals are in the community freely using their weapons and violating and terrorizing the ordinary local people and businessmen. Maoists combatant, who are still in the cantonment, are also terrorised people using arms from the cantonment. Cantonment is also being a criminal hiding place, as the involvement of Maoists carders in crime is increasing.

5. New Phenomena observed after signing Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)

After signing the peace agreement increase in numbers of armed related violence and criminal activities in Nepal are mostly targeted to get money and political power. Young people in Tarai region are being attracted to take arms to collect money. Perpetuators are attracting school and college young people only for money and physical goods like motorbikes, mobile using and other luxury things. According to district security assessment, media monitoring and small arms violence survey it has been shown that violent culture has been increased in the community among young people mainly in Tarai region. Killing, injuring and kidnapping, raping, which is gross violence of human rights has been impacting negatively on women and children. According to Media monitoring on small arms following data shows the percent of victim gender and children.

6. New Initiations has been taken

All political parties and their affiliated youth wings, including related political and social groups, need to ensure that children are not exposed to or forced to participate in violent activities. Armed groups should stop all violent activities including the use of improvised explosive devices and small arms, and stop the recruitment and use of children. It is particularly difficult to control the illegal trade of small arms when there is a demand and a huge financial Interest and corruption in the government and in defense agencies. Nepal working group on small Arms and other portable lethal Weapons (SAplW), established in 2010, is a Nepali network of representatives from offices of the Government of Nepal, Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and the United Nations (UN) including women organizations working on the issue of small arms and other portable lethal weapons in Nepal. Its goal is to prevent and reduce the negative humanitarian and socioeconomic impact caused by small arms and other portable lethal weapons in Nepal. On 1st February 2011 National Action Plan United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and 1820 has been passed by the government to involve women in peace process of peace in the country, which has been addressed participation, Security and Prevention , promotion, Relief and Recovery and Resource Management, Monitoring and Evaluation. For the preparation government had formed a High Level Steering Committee, where Foreign Minister is been a Coordinator and Peace and Reconstruction Minister involving as co-coordinator for the preparation and implementation of 1325 and 1820.

7. Conclusion

Without going into depth of the problem of small arms in Nepal, we can pose the following questions based on what I have presented:

(a) Is there an armed solution to the present day violence and conflict especially focusing on gender?;
b) Can we stop the smuggle of small arms?, and can we make the concerned governments of arms producing/exporting and importing countries accountable, both legally and politically for the consequences? ;
(c) Can we ensure that information on registration, production, as well as export and import of small arms will be made public?;
(d) Can Nepal be given the support of the international community to control and stop the illegal trade of small arms to Nepal and put pressure on the government and the armed groups of Terai region as well as in capital? .
(e) Can Nepal working group on small Arms and other portable lethal Weapons (SAplW) work effectively to eliminate the use of small arms?
(f) The problem of small arms and trade and its' role in the present situation is already very serious. We need to recognize that peace can only be achieved through political dialogue and rule of law?, and that people cannot live in peace without a minimum amount of social and economic security and human dignity. This is the challenge that we are all facing today.
(g) Can the Government make proper strategy to stop the use of small arms?
(f) Can the boarder be strict enough to stop the proliferation of small arms?