Adequate small arms control is essential for reducing conflict, crime and violence. It is a prerequisite for societal stability and sustainable development.

High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, examines a seized weapon

The unique, deeply societal characteristics of the small arms issue necessitates a comprehensive mainstreaming of gender perspectives in all dimensions of small arms control. When gender dimensions are not adequately dealt with in legislative and policy frameworks that control small arms, the success and effectiveness of interventions are limited.

Although progress has been made, more must be done to strengthen gender elements in small arms control as agreed in the frameworks such as the Programme of Action (PoA) on small arms and light weapons in all its aspects. Member States are now also reporting on their efforts to take into account gender considerations when implementing the PoA and efforts towards the collection of disaggregated data.

Moreover, in recent years, the small arms agenda has converged with broader international policy on gender equality and women’s empowerment. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has linked small arms control to the peace, security and development agenda, thereby simultaneously providing an interconnected framework of Goals, which go beyond the security dimension and which highlight that the small arms problem has implications for the realization of several Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

In addition, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Beijing Declaration form a strong normative basis for connecting the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and the small arms control agendas. The adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty and the Spotlight Initiative have further highlighted the need to focus on this issue.

Advancing gender-mainstreaming in small arms control will directly contribute to the elimination of all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls. Securing weapons and reducing their circulation removes a frequent choice of weapons for domestic and gender-based violence and femicide. Empowering women and breaking down gender stereotypes surrounding weapons will address the root causes of gender-based violence which include patriarchal systems, gender inequitable attitudes and violent aspects of traditional masculinity.

© UNI35818/UNICEF/NYHQ2001-0093/Stevie Mann

UNODA is a member of UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict and promotes arms control and disarmament efforts within the UN system with the goal to eliminate and prevent sexual violence in conflict. 

The United Nations has developed a dedicated module on “Women, men and the gendered nature of SALW” as part of its Modular Small-arms-control Implementation Compendium (MOSAIC), which provides practical guidance on gender-mainstreaming small arms control based on the best small-arms expertise.

Between 2019 and 2022 UNODA implements a global project in support of gender mainstreamed policies, programmes and actions in the fight against small arms trafficking and misuse, in line with the Women, Peace and Security agenda with funding from the European Union.