Disarm Domestic Violence: Key initial findings

Until now, most of the research on what increases the risk of a woman being killed in the home has been conducted in countries of the global North. These studies have found that access to a gun can increase the risk of death by up to five times. Another has compared female homicide rates with gun ownership levels in 25 high-income countries, and confirmed that where firearms are more available, more women are killed.

To measure the extent of the problem worldwide, IANSA members have been conducting research in their communities. This is based on questionnaires, conducted in women’s shelters, and with the assistance of the judiciary, police and healthcare professionals.

This is a global effort. So far, IANSA members in over 20 countries are involved.  

Results from first 7 surveys

The results from the first seven countries illustrate why the campaign is so important. They show a worrying pattern in which guns are routinely used to threaten, intimidate and facilitate violence against women in the home. We have summarised key findings from Cameroon, DRC, Macedonia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

CAMEROON: Gun laws are outdated. There are no domestic violence laws to protect women affected by armed domestic violence. Results from a July 2009 survey of 100 households in Yaoundé by the Trauma Center and Women in Alternative Action confirms that 92% of women reported being threatened with a gun. A family member was involved in all cases of women being threatened with a gun, with the woman's husband or partner being to blame in 70% of cases.

DRC: RODHECIC, the Center for the Integral Development of Women, and the Association for the Development of Rural Women, found that all 50 respondents of the survey conducted in June 2009 reported being directly threatened with a gun. All reported a gun in the home.
MACEDONIA: A new Law on Weapons was submitted to Parliament in 2005. Unfortunately, the law was subsequently withdrawn, leaving flawed legislation dating from 1972 in force. Again, there are no laws to protect women from armed domestic violence. The organisation of Journalists for Children and Women’s Rights and Protection of Environment (JCWE) conducted surveys during June 2009 in Skopje, Bittola, Ohrid, Tetovo, Strumica and Shtip. Survivors of domestic violence were surveyed: 95% said the perpetrator had access to a gun; 91% believed the gun was held illegally; and 73% thought their children were aware of a gun in the home.

NEPAL: During June and July 2009, the Institute of Human Rights Communication Nepal (IHRICON) conducted a survey in the districts of Nawalparasi, Siraha and Banke. 83% of respondents reported being directly threatened with a gun, and 80% felt that they are in danger due to a gun in the home. Nepal has recently passed the Domestic Violence (Crime and Punishment) Act 2009. However, it does not mention weapons or specific instances and types of domestic violence. This may make the law too wide-ranging to be enforced effectively.
NIGERIA: From a survey conducted during May-June 2009, the Women’s Information Network in Enugu, 69% of respondents reported being directly threatened with a gun. In 69% of cases, the perpetrator was their husband or intimate partner, with the remainder being another family member. Nigeria has a comprehensive Firearms Act 1990 but no domestic violence legislation. Therefore, there is no protection or remedies for women in armed domestic violence situations.

PAKISTAN: Awaz CDS conducted surveys in the 4 Districts of Southern Punjab (Multan, Muzaffar Garh, Jampur & DG Khan) during June 2009. 94% of respondents said they had been threatened by a gun, and 70% believed the gun was held illegally. There has been progress in Pakistan where the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill was passed by the National Assembly on 4 August 2009. However, armed domestic violence has not been acknowledged.

SRI LANKA: The South Asia Small Arms Network translated the questionnaires into local languages and circulated them in three districts: Pollonnaruwa and Anuradhapura from the North Central Province - both on the border with the conflict zone - and Hanguranketha District in a peaceful zone. In all 3 districts, 100% of respondents felt they were in danger and the main perpetrator was their spouse. Sri Lanka does not have specific legislation on domestic violence and the Penal Code too does not criminalize domestic violence. The survey showed that access to a gun could be as intimidating as ownership of one. In Pollonnaruwa, 25% of perpetrators had their own gun, but 75% had access to one. In Anuradhapura, 40% of perpetrators had their own gun and 60% had access, whilst in Hanguranketha, 64% owned a gun and 36% had access to one. All respondents reported feeling threatened and in danger as a result.

We are only just beginning ...

These findings show just how vital the Disarm Domestic Violence campaign is, and how much work we have to do. Understanding the true scale of the problem is the first step towards securing better policies to protect women in their homes. But this research is only a start.

We need members around the world to join in, collect information from their communities, and help us turn this snapshot of a global problem into a detailed picture. Only then can we work together to develop a comprehensive solution to the problem of armed domestic violence, and ensure that women are safe in their own homes.