Sexed Pistols: The Gendered Impacts of Small Arms and Light Weapons


Sample Chapter
  • Edited Vanessa Farr, Henri Myrttinen and Albrecht Schnabel

    1175 Farr – Sexed Pistols FINAL front cover
    ISBN-10: 92-808-1175-4,
    ISBN-13: 978-92-808-1175-9
    United Nations University Press
    December 2009

    Every day, small arms and light weapons (SALW) kill and maim, wound and threaten millions of adults and children, whether combatants and civilians in war zones or gangs and communities in degraded “peacetime” environments that are characterized by large-scale violence. Due to their widespread availability, mobility and ease of use prolific SALW have become central to maintaining social dislocation, destabilization, insecurity and crime in the build-up to war, in wartime and in the aftermath of violent conflict. Small arms are misused within domestic settings, as well as in public spaces, and they affect everyone in the community without regard to sex or age. Although the impacts of these weapons can be vastly different for women and men, girls and boys, a careful consideration of gender and age is rare in the formulation of small arms policy, of planning small arms collection or control, or even in small arms research. To counter the effects of prolific SALW, their role in reinforcing and maintaining gender- and age-specific violence must be more deeply analysed and the results applied at the policy and operational level. This work should be undertaken in war-afflicted contexts, in societies suffering from elevated levels of social violence and/or severe underdevelopment, and in those tolerant of the presence of individually owned firearms.

    Contributors to the book draw on experience and research from around the world on the nexus of gender, age, violence and small arms in developing and developed countries. Their findings feed into a number of recommendations for future policy formulation, programme implementation and research designed to further illuminate and counteract the firing of the “sexed pistol”.

    Vanessa Farr is a Senior Social Development and Gender Advisor with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

    Henri Myrttinen is a South East Asia Analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG), Indonesia, and a Doctoral Candidate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

    Albrecht Schnabel is a Senior Fellow in the Research Division of the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), Switzerland.

    Table of contents


    • Sexing the pistol – The gendered impacts of prolific small arms
    • Gender, attitudes and the regulation of small arms: Implications for action

    Part I: Sexualized violence, gender and small arms

    • Girls and small arms in Sierra Leone: Victimization, participation and resistance
    • Small arms and rape as a system of war: A case study of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

    Part II: Gender, small arms and violence in fragmented societies

    • Haiti: The gendered pattern of small-arms violence against women
    • State, society and the gender of gun culture in Papua New Guinea
    • “Now they have guns, now they feel powerful” – Gender perspectives on small-arms violence in Timor-Leste

    Part III: Militarizing the domestic sphere

    • “That’s equality for you, dear”: Gender, small arms and the Northern Ireland conflict
    • The gun on the kitchen table: The sexist subtext of private policing in Israel
    • Securing private spaces: Gendered labour, violence and democratization in South Africa

    Part IV: Gender, weapons collection and small-arms control

    • Just a matter of practicality: Mapping the role of women in “weapons for development” projects in Albania
    • Poems against bullets? The role of Somali women in social gun control
    • Missing men, lost boys and widowed women: Gender perspectives on small-arms proliferation and disarmament in Karamoja, Uganda


    • Conclusions: Recommendations for further research and activism
    • Selected recommended reading