Peace Fellows recruited by Advocacy Project, Washington DC were placed with IANSA members during the summer of 2009. They worked on research and data collection; profiling stakeholders and producing content; developing IT tools; media outreach; and producing campaign materials.

Argentina: Althea Middleton-Detzner

Althea worked with Associacion Para Politicas Publicas (APP), an organisation in Buenos Aires that works on issues of human security, disarmament, and civil society strengthening in Argentina and the region. In Argentina, there are little if any statistics on the impact of guns in cases of domestic violence. The government holds statistics on the number of women killed by gun violence each year and statistics on the number of formal complaints filed each year due to domestic violence, but there are no statistics on the number of domestic violence incidents that involve guns.

APP’s DDV campaign aims to change this disunity by bringing together gun violence and domestic violence groups in Argentina, gathering statistics on the connection between the two, and utilizing new media advocacy tools to lobby the Argentine government to harmonize their domestic violence and gun violence laws.

Through the implementation of the DDV campaign in Argentina, along with the important work of government and non-governmental organisations, positive and necessary change to end violence against women in Argentina can be achieved.

Canada: Elizabeth Mandelman

Elizabeth’s fellowship was with Project Ploughshares in Ontario, Canada. Elizabeth interviewed Maribel Gonzales who was her fellowship supervisor at Project Ploughshares and Maribel talks about the correlation between small arms and domestic violence and explains how Canada’s Firearms Act has effectively harmonized gun control and domestic violence laws in the country. In addition, she talks about attempts to eliminate the registration of unrestricted rifles and shotguns, which would dismantle these harmonized laws.

Canada is one of only a few countries that has already harmonised gun laws and domestic violence laws. In 1995, the Firearms Act was passed, requiring that owners of guns hold both a license and proof of registration for their firearms. Before being granted a license, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Firearms Program may choose to contact references, spouses, or ex-spouses (required information on the application) in order to determine whether there are any safety concerns in granting a particular individual a license. Opponents question why both a license and registration are needed, arguing that a lack of statistical evidence exists illustrating that current policy reduces violence; many assert that the money used to cover administrative costs for the program should instead be used to increase the number of RCMP.

Elizabeth discovered that some organisations are unaware of the proposals currently before Parliament that would eliminate the registration requirements of unrestricted rifles and shotguns (C-391 in the House of Commons and S-5 in the Senate). A member of the Ontario Provincial Police Threat Assessment Unit explained that this lack of awareness is due to the strong and effective gun control laws that Canada currently has in place. Domestic homicides rarely involve firearms in Canada, as the Firearms Act helps to prevent perpetrators from acquiring guns. However, because there are threats against and proposals to eliminate the portion of the act requiring that firearms be registered, it is important that those with a vested interest in protecting women from domestic violence by firearms need to be aware of what laws are in place, and what proposals have been made to alter the legislation, in order to successfully lobby on behalf of those that they are trying to protect.

In Canada, one in three women killed by their husbands is shot, making it hard to imagine what that statistic would be without the registry in place.

The Firearms Act was passed in 1995, and contains measures targeted at keeping guns from those who are at risk to commit domestic violence. These measures include screening risk factors for suicide and domestic violence, background checks, and notifying current and previous spouses of an individual’s intent to acquire a firearms license.

Between 1997 and 2006, Canada has seen the rate of firearm-related spousal homicide decrease by nearly fifty percent, according to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. In addition, according to the same source, since 2008 police have seized 8,261 guns from owners who were either violent or had threatened violence; seventy-four percent of these guns were non-restricted firearms.

Watch Elizabeth’s interview with Barb MacQuarrie, Community Director of the Centre for Research and Education on Violence against Women & Children at the University of Western Ontario.

Clearly, the licensing and registry provisions included in the Firearms Act are interrelated, and licensing on its own cannot do what licensing and the registry can together. As Canada’s Supreme Court pointed out in their 2000 opinion on the constitutionality of the Act, the registry helps police officers to take preventative measures, and also aides in holding people who have misused firearms or sold them illegally responsible for their actions.

Canada’s Firearms Act has been internationally recognized as good practice and is being used as a model for other countries looking to implement similar laws. It is not perfect. Nobody is pretending it is. There were cost overruns in its implementation, and some existing loopholes need to be closed. That being said, its imperfections are very small, and eliminating any portion of the Firearms Act would result in a decline of public safety and increased accessibility of firearms to perpetrators of domestic violence and other dangerous individuals.

Colombia: Rebecca Gerome

Rebecca worked with Colectivo Mujeres Pazificas in Cali, Colombia. Law 1257 of 2008 on violence against women is a major breakthrough. Rebecca participated in a workshop on this law for women in Cali. Claudia, a lawyer from Sisma Mujer, a women’s group, explained that all 27 women of the Colombian congress, united to pass this law despite their political differences. The law includes new protection measures in cases of domestic violence, including the suspension of the aggressor’s right to carry a firearm. If a woman goes to report domestic violence, the authorities may “suspend the aggressor’s right of possession, carrying and use of arms. If these firearms are indispensable for the exercise of his or her profession or office, the suspension must be justified.”

A major obstacle to Colombian laws is that firearm laws do not mention domestic violence which means that domestic violence offenders can buy and use arms legally. Redepaz, one of the three groups which support the Disarming Domestic Violence campaign in Colombia, have been lobbying for tougher gun laws for years. To date, they collected millions of signatures as well as support from mayors’ of major Colombian cities for a draft law proposal that features five main points, including not letting people with a history of domestic violence or human rights violations access guns.

Rebecca tells the story of three women, a community social worker, a nursing assistant and a human rights lawyer. These three professional women have dedicated their lives and careers to make their city and their country a better place. All three are fighting daily to save, defend and help others. All three tell a story of armed domestic violence and explain how this has affected them in their daily struggles to change cultural norms, save lives and defend fundamental rights. Watch them tell their stories:

Changing Cultural Norms: Maria Teresa Restrepo

In the Emergency Room: Ligia Fajardo

Promoting basic rights: Liliana Patricia Bedoya

Namibia: Johanna Wilkie

Johanna worked with Breaking the Wall of Silence (BWS) in Namibia. Johanna interviewed Pauline Dempers, national coordinator of Namibian NGO Breaking the Wall of Silence. Pauline discussed the national Gun Free Namibia campaign that her organisation has spearheaded as well as the link between guns and domestic violence that is the focus of the Disarming Domestic Campaign.

In 2003, Namibia enacted the Combating of Domestic Violence Act, which defines domestic violence, provides for protection orders to be issued to victims, and outlines police responsibilities in responding to such crimes. The law amends the Arms and Ammunition Act by including domestic violence as a crime that can render an offender unfit to own weapons. In addition, the CDV Act allows for police seizure of weapons at the scene under section 23.

Johanna visited one of the Woman and Child Protection Units (WCPUs). These are run by the Namibian police, mainly in the largest cities of each region. They were safe havens where women and children who had been abused, raped, or threatened could come and report the crime and could receive medical exams and basic treatment, counselling, and even temporary shelter.

Nepal: Isha Mehmood

Isha was a Peace Fellow with the South Asia Partnership (SAP) in Nepal. During her fellowship, the first law specific to domestic violence in Nepal was passed in Parliament. Until now, there were laws that provided protection to victims of domestic violence. However, these provisions existed under separate laws regarding criminal activity. They are now consolidated into one domestic violence law.

The domestic violence law in Nepal is very strict and for good reason. A 2008 study by Saathi, a women’s organisation, found that 93 percent of women in Nepal are exposed to mental and emotional torture, 82 percent are beaten, 30 percent are raped, and 28 percent are forced into prostitution. According to Ruwon, also known as the Rural Women’s Network Nepal which is an organization based out of Chabahil that focuses on gender equality and women empowerment through education, one in three women in Nepal are victims of domestic violence Therefore, a strong domestic violence law is needed.

Isha met with Bimala Khadka, an advocate at The Forum for Women’s Law and Development organization. She estimates that 70 percent of all criminal cases in Nepal have to do with domestic violence. She said that violence against women in Nepal is “easily taken,” but that the government is trying to set up resources that will help victims. The new budget, which passed recently, includes funding to create women’s shelters for victims of domestic violence in every single district in Nepal.

Portugal: Aaron Fuchs

Aaron Fuchs worked with the Centro de Estudos Sociais (CES). Recent domestic violence killings in Portugal numbered 47 in the last year. 82% of the deaths occurred by a current or old boyfriend/husband/partner. There is a need to investigate the number of these deaths that involved firearms. CES works to assemble similar information to support the case for harmonization of gun laws and domestic violence legislation. The work consists of mailing surveys to shelters, police stations, and heath centres to assemble supporting information and identify those willing to speak about the situation of armed domestic violence. IANSA and its partners advocate for the involvement of wives and partners in the arms application and licensing process.

Watch Aaron’s interview with Rita Santos, the director of the Centro de Estudos Sociais in Coimbra, Portugal, where she details the Centers’ work to support IANSA and the international gun control movement. She speaks further about the situation in Portugal and the movement to harmonize domestic violence offenses and gun licenses.

Serbia: Fanny Grandchamp

Fanny was a Peace Fellow with the Victimology Society of Serbia (VDS). VDS is a pioneer organisation in raising awareness on specific issues such as domestic violence, human trafficking or sexual violence and have achieved concrete results in changing or creating comprehensive legislation. The Balkans is characterized by the important presence of guns: the previous conflicts increased the proliferation and easy availability of small arms and light weapons, both legally and illegally possessed.

Domestic violence is also a widespread phenomenon in the Balkans: If surveys, conducted mostly by women’s NGOs, suggest a high level of unreported cases of domestic violence, the available data indicate that 1/3 to 2/3 of women in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have experienced partner abuse, a similar situation to the Serbian. In another way to put it, every fourth ‘ever-partnered woman’ has experienced physical or sexual violence making domestic violence a burning and common issue in the Balkans.

Out of the 120 cases of domestic violence judged by the Belgrade Courts in 2007, one third took place in houses where there was a gun. In 19.5% of these houses equipped with guns, firearms were used as a mean of producing violence toward the women.

Uganda: Courtney Chance

Courtney was a Peace Fellow with CECORE (Centre for Conflict Resolution) in Kampala, Uganda, working on the Disarming Domestic Violence campaign. Virtually no reliable data exist on the prevalence of armed domestic violence, but anecdotal evidence combined with newspaper reports, would suggest that firearms are a common component of intimate violence, especially when used as a tool to intimidate women into submission.

According to the National Focal Point’s research, within districts identified as having a high presence of small arms, the rate of sexual assault reached 19%, compared to 4% in the districts with a low prevalence of small arms. The rate of general assault rises from the national average of 24% to 41% in areas with a high concentration of firearms. With men in Uganda being more than twice as likely to have access to a gun (and being much more likely to personally own one), women face a serious power imbalance.

One of the major events during Courtney’s time in Uganda was the tabling of the domestic violence draft bill. This bill had been more than a decade in the making and was finally tabled this year.