Women and Guns. Fighting Domestic Violence with the Power of Intimidation

A media launch conference of the 2014 Small Arms Survey: Women and Guns at the UN Headquarters discussed female victimization and the role of arms in preventing abuses

Social, economic, and cultural norms are still the highest risk factors for violence against women and girls (VAWG) in the world –including the Americas. Fear of retaliation, justifications, and stigmas often dissuade women from reporting this “centuries-old” and atrocity – making it difficult to quantify by local authorities.

That’s not going to continue forever though, not even in countries (Libya as an example) where women are twice likely to affirm that husbands are justified in beating wives, simply because they have been socialized to accept domestic violence.

Women are now (literally) ‘putting gun to shoulder’ in a sharp effort to remove humiliation of being beaten and to increase their confidence, self-esteem and power. Positions such as police officers, soldiers, combatants, and security personnel –previously only open to males– are some of the career paths females are now embarking upon.

“A Glock 19 –I use it to intimidate,” said one female guard who is employed by the department of correctional services system in South Africa and currently works at the Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison for men in a town called Tokai. She explained that the hardest part of her job is being accepted and that people see her as different and cannot understand that women can be in charge of men.

As males continue to assume authoritative figure over females, the issue is increasingly becoming a global concern. That’s why the Arms Trade Treaty, UNWomen, the World Health Organization and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies have been conducting annual surveys.

Monday, 16 June, a media launch conference of the 2014 Small Arms Survey: Women and Guns at the UN Headquarters discussed the findings of the survey, and female victimization was one of the main topics. Even more, the recent merging of multiple female roles regarding armed violence, peace and security with that of the small arms agenda were brought to surface.

“Men continually use sexual violence as a weapon of war however they use other methods – such as guns and weaponry. These should be highlighted just as much in gender-based violence as much as in any other types of violence against women,” an ATT representative said.

Anna Alvazzi del Frate of Bologna, Italy, who is also the research director at Small Arms Survey, was lead speaker at the event. She commented that not only are the rates of domestic violence against females higher wherever the custom is socially accepted as a justified response to household disputes, but also that femicide (killing a woman just because she is a woman) rates are particularly high in regions where firearms are widely available.

“The research, investigation and prosecution of gender-based violence is weak,” Ms. Frate added. “The only correct figures that can be furnished are of femicides.”

Females bear a substantial part of the overall burden of firearm violence, the survey found, and every year roughly 22,000 female die of firearm injuries. A different study, carried out in 2013 by the World Health Organization, finds that 36% of women between 15 and 69 years old have experienced some type of sexual and physical violence –either by an intimate or non-intimate partner.

More findings from the Small Arms Survey state that females hardly ever use weapons to commit a crime, as opposed to their male counterparts, and they are less likely to use excessive force with a weapon –regardless if the issue is with their at-home partner or criminal. The FBI however, furnished facts that the rate of “justifiable homicides” committed by women doubled between 2000 and 2010.

The focal point is that women gather more strength and exert more power over a given situation, while the perpetrator will at least feel weakened by the fact that the woman has the weapon at hand and the “know-how” of using it if need be.

​“My husband and I [finally] got divorced. He was too intimidated by my having the gun,” said the South African prison guard. She added that her 21-year old daughter wishes she would find a different job. “I love my job. I do what I do and I do it well. I would not change it for the world,” the guard said.


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