The Centre for Conflict Management and Women Development Affairs (CECOWDA) has urged government to take concrete steps to review and harmonise laws on firearms.

CECOWDA made the call on Saturday in Bangwe Township, Blantyre, when it joined other activists from over 90 countries to demand policies to keep women safe from gun violence in their homes as part of Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence.

CECOWDA Executive Director Caroline Mvalo said there was a great need for government to plant strong and effective policies to disarm gun violence and ensure that domestic violence abusers are not permitted to access to guns.

“Every minute, two people are injured by a gun, and someone is killed by gunshot every 90 seconds. Most of this violence is preventable, by reducing the supply and the demand for weapons. Gun violence is a disaster affecting every country. Our government must take action here and internationally to help stop this pointless waste of lives and resources.

“We want to see laws that would protect women in their own homes. There is no time to lose and waste here. So our humble plea to government is to deny access to firearms to anyone with a history of domestic abuse and have their license revoked,” she said.

She also called upon government to support the UN Firearms Protocol at the meeting in New York on 18 June to bind global agreement on firearms, which are too easily smuggled across national borders.

“We want government to promote a strong international Arms Trade Treaty when negotiations start at the UN in July and demand that international aid donors provide specific funds for preventing armed violence, which continues to undermine the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” she said.

“Our goal is to see better gun laws and push for stronger regulation of the global arms trade. It’s also a time to highlight the first international campaign to demand policies to protect women from gun violence, “she said.

Umunthu Foundation Executive Director David Odali agreed that the greatest risk of gun violence to women around the world is in their own homes.

“There is a worrying pattern in which guns are routinely used to threaten, intimidate and facilitate violence against women is in their own homes. Women are three times more likely to die violently if there is a gun in the house. Usually the perpetrator is a spouse or a partner, often with a prior record of domestic abuse,” he said.

Speaking at the function, Police Sub-Inspector Goodson Chabwera, who is also coordinator of community policing and victim support unit for Bangwe Police, observed that understanding the true scale of the problem is the first step towards securing better policies to protect women in their homes.

“We cannot do it alone, so we are calling for others to join us, collect information from their communities, and help develop a detailed picture of the problem. 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,” he said.

Originally published in The Daily Times, 18 May 2010