July 2015 E-News: Voices Against Militarism in South Asia

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Voices Against Militarism in South Asia

By Binalakshmi Nepram, Founder of the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network and Secretary General of the Control Arms Foundation of India

The rise of militarisation and weaponisation in South Asia is escalating at an alarming rate. A growing number of insurgency movements has led to an increase in fatalities, greater militarisation and weaponisation throughout the region. While many people believe guns and military will keep the people in South Asia safe- the reality is quite different. The region has one of poorest human security indicators. Every week in Bangladesh, more than ten women suffer from an acid attack; in India, 22 women are killed every day in dowry-related murders and one woman is raped every 22 minutes; in Sri Lanka, 60 per cent of women report having suffered physical abuse; and in Pakistan, more than 450 women and girls die every year in so-called “honour killings”.

Despite the increase in violence against women, small arms proliferation and weaponisation continues to grow. Young people have taken up the path of gun violence resulting in death, decay and destruction socially, politically and economically. Every year 300,000 people are killed around the world because of small arms. In areas of South Asia, not a single day passes without a gun killing.

In my home country of India, we as women have set up the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network (MWGSN), which is the first of its kind in India to offer victim assistance to women survivors of gun violence. MWGSN attempts to lift women above the trauma and agony faced in conflict. The work of women-led disarmament against militarisation is a need of the hour. With more than 460 million firearms in civilian possession, India has the world’s second-largest civilian gun arsenal. We have started the journey in South Asia and must continue this work with women from all across the world.

In 2001 the United Nations addressed the issue of small arms and light weapons for the first time in its history when it launched the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (UNPoA). UNPoA is perceived to be a futile programme in many countries, but for some concerned citizens it is seen as a real opportunity to take a stronger stance against guns and gun violence. Across India, MWGSN coordinated several meetings in major cities - Manipur, Delhi, Jammu, Mumbai and Chennai - calling for the government of India to implement UNPoA. Despite several submissions of government reports to the UN on small arms issues, claiming it was adhering to UNPoA, this work has never been deployed on the ground. In response, we mobilised civil society and in 2004 formed the Control Arms Foundation of India in New Delhi (CAFI). The foundation aims at addressing issues related to the proliferation of small arms and light weapons through direct intervention based upon a gender sensitive approach, and by supporting women’s role in small arms policy.

The potential to end the violence caused by militarisation and weaponisation lies within all of us. Share resources to amplify the voices of women activists, raise awareness of gun violence and the need for disarmament, and call upon your own governments to end small arms and light weapons proliferation and trading. We all have the power to call for peace!

The World Humanitarian Summit - A Historic Opportunity for the WPS Agenda

By Manar Marouf

On 21 July, PeaceWomen and the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the United Nations held a lecture series event centred on the importance of integrating the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda into the humanitarian action. The lecture was part of civil society’s efforts to push for more gender-sensitive recommendations in the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit to be held in Istanbul 2016.

The panel discussion featured Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Marcy Hersh, Senior Advocacy Officer at Women’s Refugee Commission. Ms Kang stressed the importance of holding the World Humanitarian Summit as conflicts today disproportionately impact women and girls. The regional consultations resulted in key issues that limit implementation of gender equality mechanisms in the humanitarian field, including women’s participation in decision-making processes, lack of accountability mechanisms in implementing gender equality, and limitations in funding for gender sensitive programmes. Ms Hersh highlighted the work of the Women’s Refugee Commission in documenting the urgent need for gender sensitive responses all over the world. Furthermore, she asserted the vitality of integrating women’s needs as the way for more accountable and cost-effective approaches to humanitarian action. 

Both speakers stressed that gender is siloed and the summit will be a great opportunity to provide a road map for mainstreaming gender in humanitarian action. The conversation however, did not address the gap between policy and practice which alienates policy-makers from the practitioners who face the consequences of the absence of gender-perspectives in the field. Lastly, PeaceWomen program manager, Abigail Ruane, reiterated the need for such conversation to build momentum for social change and seize the opportunity to break the cycle of the status quo.

Read a full recap of the event here>>

Walking the Line: Women Cross De-militarised Zone (DMZ) for Peace

By Blythe Brauer

On 23 July, Peace Women in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the United Nations convened a panel of women peace activists at the United Nations to speak about their participation in the historic 2015 Women's Walk for Peace in Korea, which WILPF International President, Kozue Akibayashi joined on International Women's Day this year. Panelists Christine Ahn, Aiyoung Choi, Ann Wright and Dr Hyung-Kyung Chung spoke movingly about their experiences meeting with both North and South Korean women and their wish for a Peace Treaty to finally end the Korean War. While the walk received enormous press coverage from international media, it was crucial to hear the voices of the Korean women and their wish for peace.

A film of the meeting showed that desire for reunification on both sides of the DMZ is palpable. The panelists reinforced the importance of including women in any future peace processes and reiterated a call to the UN to step up its efforts in reunifying the two Koreas. The event was well attended by civil society and member state representatives. H.E. Ambassador Chowdhury, former Permanent Representative from Bangladesh, suggested the walk demonstrates the time for ‘women’s diplomacy’ has come, and called for a woman to serve as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations. WILPF continues to support grassroots women peacebuilding movements and the inclusion of women in peacebuilding at all levels.

Read more here>>

South Asia’s Ongoing Conflicts and Women’s Peace Efforts in the Region

By Cristel Taveras

On 24 July, PeaceWomen, in collaboration with the Manipur Women Gun Survivor Network (MWGSN) and the Baha'i International Community, held a discussion and film screening on South Asia’s Ongoing Conflicts and Women’s Peace Efforts in the Region, with a focus on the Manipur state in Northeast India. WILPF partner and MWGSN founder, Binalakshmi Nepram led the conversation, highlighting the status of women throughout South Asia and the forgotten conflict unfolding and continuing to paralyse the state of Manipur. In recent weeks, the region witnessed the rise of a democratic movement to safeguard the rights of indigenous peoples. In an effort to suppress protesters authorities have imposed a regional curfew, closing down educational institutions and workplaces for the past three weeks, and indulged in the widespread use of live and rubber bullets, mock bombs and tear smoke shells on civilians.

The film clip, "Gunning for Control", revealed the rippling effects of the global arms trade and its impact on local communities. India is currently the world’s biggest importer of defence equipment and as the film emphasized, the influx of weaponry has only exacerbated ongoing conflicts and led to greater fatalities over the years.

Despite the turmoil engulfing Northeast India, women’s rights activist have not been deterred. Organisations such as the MWGSN and the Naga Mothers Association continuously strive for peace through gender-sensitive approaches. Ms Nepram concluded the discussion by calling for stronger commitments to disarmament and highlighting who profits from global conflicts. With the permanent five members of the UN Security Council - the US, the UK, China, Russia, and France -  producing 80 per cent of the world’s arms, it is crucial to pressure our governments to stop proliferation of small arms and light weapons if peace is to be the end goal.

Read a full summary of the event here>>