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Gender-Based Violence to be Focus of Arms Trade Conference

By Lisa Schlein August 22, 2019

Efforts to regulate the international export of weapons to lessen gender-based violence will be a focus next week of the U.N. Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty. More than 500 delegates from over 100 countries are expected to attend the meeting in Geneva.

The arms trade treaty, which regulates trade in conventional arms and seeks to eradicate the illicit trade in those weapons, took effect on December 24, 2014. It has been ratified by 104 countries.

Although the treaty takes gender into account as a risk factor, officials note there has not been a single case of denial of an arms export license purely based on gender.

The president of the conference, Latvian Ambassador Janis Karklins, tells VOA armed violence affects the genders differently. He says most of the victims in armed conflict are men and boys because they are mainly engaged in combat.

"Women and girls are affected in a different way," said Karklins. "So, with the displacement, with the sexual violence, they are victims of sexual violence. There might be health issues related to use of munitions."

Karklins says different aspects need to be factored in as part of the risk assessment made when issuing export licenses.

A study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute finds the top 100 arms producing companies earn an estimated $395 billion a year.

The study says international transfers of major arms between 2014 and 2018 were 23 percent higher than in the previous decade. The report also says the United States, Russia, France, Germany, and China accounted for 75 percent of the total volume of global arms exports.

In April, U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the arms trade treaty that was signed by the Obama administration in 2013. The U.S. sent the U.N. secretary-general notification that Washington would not seek to ratify the treaty and does not consider the U.S. bound by the treaty provisions any longer.

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