#16 Days: The Arms Trade Treaty and 16 Days of Action to Prevent and Eliminate Gender-based Violence

Photo Credit: From Poverty to Power, Oxfam GB.
Photo Credit: From Poverty to Power, Oxfam GB.

I tried to climb onto a wall but a ‘red beret’ saw me and hit me with his truncheon while another one shot me in the legs. Three of them took me towards the toilets, dragging me along the ground. One of them raped me while another ‘red beret’ pointed his gun at my head….”

Amnesty International, Guinea: They Ripped off my Clothes with Their Knives and Left Me Completely Naked” Voices of Women and Girls Victims of Sexual Violence, February 2010, AFR 29/002/2010

One person dies every minute from armed violence around the world. How many of those are female deaths related to the irresponsible trade and illicit trafficking of weapons? No one knows. But we do know that rates of femicide—acts of homicide in which the victim is a woman or a girl—are significantly higher in countries and territories affected by high or very high overall homicide rates. Firearms play an important role in lethal violence, and the display of firearms—as a means to intimidate, threaten, or coerce someone—is a predictor of their actual use, according to the Small Arms Survey.

In 2013 the 193-nation UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the landmark Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the first and only treaty on regulating the trade in conventional arms ranging from light weapons to jet fighters and warships. Canada was among those who voted in favour of the treaty.

Continue reading “#16 Days: The Arms Trade Treaty and 16 Days of Action to Prevent and Eliminate Gender-based Violence”

#16Days: A Time to Challenge Militarism and End Gender-Based Violence – In Canada and Around the World!

Up For Debate Sharegraphic 2There is so much in this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence theme that resonates for us in Canada today.

A new national conversation on violence against women has been launched by Ghomeshi-gate. Whether or not it will be translated into concrete change remains to be seen, but at least issues are being raised. People – women and men – have spoken out on the prevalence of sexual harassment on Parliament Hill and the implications for women’s participation in national politics.

Public opinion bubbles with outrage over lack of action on violence against indigenous women.

At the same time, the Government of Canada is at war and has launched airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Once again we are challenged to ask how military action contributes to peace. Although the horrors of the ISIL movement, including violence against women and girls, are well documented, many questions can and should be raised regarding how bombing and airstrikes will bring about a resolution to the complex situation.

Our government engages in bellicose rhetoric on the conflict in Ukraine. Yet it is not clear that Canada is doing anything in that country in the spirit of Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. Where is the support to Ukrainian women to help them participate in peacebuilding and help resolve this crisis?

In the midst of all these developments, the call for a discussion on women’s rights — both domestically and in Canada’s foreign policy – couldn’t be more timely. A coalition of over 100 organizations has called for a leaders’ debate on women’s rights issues as part of the next federal election campaign. The campaign is called Up for Debate. These issues deserve a higher profile as we choose our national leaders and as politicians tell us how they would govern.

During the 16 Days of Activism Campaign, there is certainly much to talk about. And there is even more to act on.

Beth Woroniuk is a member of the WPSN-C Steering Committee. You can follow her on Twitter at @bethottawa.

#16days: Film Screening & Panel Discussion of The Invisible War

Invisible War

It is the most powerful and advanced military organization in history, but it is failing hundreds of thousands within its own ranks.

About half a million female soldiers in the US military have been raped, and military women in combat zones are now more likely to sexually assaulted by their fellow soldiers than killed by enemy fire.

It is this shameful and under-reported truth that award-winning filmmaker, Kirby Dick, explores in The Invisible War. Featuring personal interviews and footage, the film follows several survivors of sexual assault as they rebuild their lives and seek justice from an unyielding military system that promotes perpetrators and punishes victims of sexual violence.

We invite you to hear their stories at our film screening and panel discussion of The Invisible War on Friday November 28. The event will be held in room 4004 in the Social Sciences Building at the University of Ottawa. Doors will open at 5:30pm and the screening will start at 6:00pm. Please note that space is limited, so guests are encouraged to arrive early!

Following the screening, a panel including Noémi Mercier, author of a recent exposé on sexual violence within the Canadian military published by L’actualité and Maclean’s magazine, Julie S. Lalonde, founder of Hollaback! Ottawa and developer of bystander intervention project Draw the Line, and moderator Caitlin Maxwell, feminist lawyer and researcher of sexual violence in the Canadian military, will discuss issues of sexual violence in Canada’s military and communities, and participate in a Q&A.

Opening remarks will be made by Colonel (Ret’d) Michel W. Drapeau, lawyer, professor and former Director, National Defence Headquarters Secretariat and Secretary, Armed Forces Council.

The event is free and open to the public. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for updates.

This event will be co-hosted by the WPSN-C and the University of Ottawa’s School of International Development and Global Studies as part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.


#16Days: Taking Action Against Gender Violence

16dayslogoOn November 25, 1960, three of the Mirabal sisters – Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa – were murdered. The sisters were political activists and held up as symbols of popular and feminist resistance to Rafael Trujillo’s brutal dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. When the bodies of the sisters were found at the bottom of a precipice, a shocked and outraged nation rose up against Trujillo’s rule and quickly toppled his repressive regime.

To honour of the Mirabal sisters, November 25 was named the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women by a feminist conference in 1981. This day was officially recognized by the United Nations in 1999.

It is fitting then that this day begins the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, an annual campaign allows individuals and groups around the world to symbolically link violence against women and human rights, to denounce violence, and to work toward a more peaceful world.

The 16 Days includes other important dates, including International Women Human Rights Defenders Day (November 29), World AIDS Day (December 1), International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3) and the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre (December 6), before ending on Human Rights Day (December 10).

It also has an annual theme to focus attention and activities. This year, the theme is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women” and the priorities are: 1) Violence Perpetrated by State Actors, 2) Proliferation of Small Arms in Cases of Intimate Partner Violence, and 3) Sexual Violence During and After Conflict.

Throughout this year’s 16 Days, the WPSN-C will publish a series of blog posts on these topics, and co-host two related events in Ottawa.

On November 28, the network will co-host a film screening of The Invisible War with the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa. Directed by award-winning film-maker Kirby Dick, the film examines the high level of sexual assault within the US military and follows several survivors as they seek justice and healing. A panel discussion and Q&A exploring sexual violence within Canada’s military and communities will follow, featuring Noémi Mercier (Maclean’s), Julie S. Lalonde (Hollaback! / Draw the Line) and Joan McKenna (Ottawa Police).

On December 2nd,the network will also support an event with Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, Oxfam Canada and Match International on the topic of “Is This Canada’s Watershed Moment on Violence Against Women?” The event will be held on Parliament Hill and feature a discussion on this question with Members of Parliament and civil society. See the 16 Days calendar for further details and registration information.

Our members are also hosting events and campaigns throughout the 16 Days. On November 26, the Institute for International Women’s Rights-Manitoba will hold a panel discussion titled “From Peace in the World to Peace in the Home” at the University of Winnipeg, while Nobel Women’s Initiative will profile women’s rights activists from around the world in a series of blogs.

For more info on these events, please see our events page or join us on Facebook and Twitter where we’ll be posting regular updates.

To find out what else is happening in communities across Canada, also have a look at Women In International Security Canada’s event calendar or the 16 Days campaign’s official calendar.

Iraq: A conflict waged on women’s bodies

UNHCR - Iraq June 2014

Members of an Iraqi family fleeing from Mosul seek shelter in primary school in the village of Alqosh. Photo credit: UNHCR / S. Baldwin, June 2014.

In recent weeks, the situation in Iraq has rapidly deteriorated, with extremist militants known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) now controlling much of the north and western regions of Iraq.  As the conflict escalates, it becomes evident that women are not only on the front lines, but are the battleground on which the ISIS forces are waging war. The untold story, however, is that women are not just the victims, but also the first responders to violence.

As men are called to arms to defend the fragile state, women are left to protect their families, homes and communities against the insurgencies. As is common to most conflict zones, women are subsequently saddled with the responsibility for the young, elderly, wounded and sick. Over the past 4 weeks as the conflict has worsened, over 300 000 refugees, including women and children, have fled their homes out of fear of the ISIS insurgency and a looming threat of airstrikes. In the midst of the chaos, women are increasingly vulnerable to sexual and gender based violence (SGBV),  in a country where many have struggled, over the years, to hold perpetrators accountable.

Immediately after seizing Iraq’s second-largest city in northern Iraq, ISIS troops began imposing their fundamentalist agenda on the people of Mosul, ordering women to cover themselves and retreat to their homes. Shortly after their arrival, reports of kidnapping and rape began to surface, a frightening indication of the faction’s strategy of imposing their extremist agenda on women’s bodies.

According to a statement from the UNFPA, over 20 000 women and girls in Iraq are currently facing an increased risk of sexual violence. These estimates however appear modest when considering the severity of the violence that has already been inflicted on women and girls in ISIS-occupied regions and stigma attached to sexual violence which makes it less likely to be reported.. Heavily armed fighters stormed the homes of Mosul, declaring a “sex jihad” in which women who were “not owned” could be abducted and raped by ISIS troops.  In the early weeks of June, human rights defenders reported 13 of these cases, 4 of which have led the victims to suicide as a result of the trauma and shame.

Continue reading “Iraq: A conflict waged on women’s bodies”