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Though they are almost never the buyers, owners or users of small firearms, women suffer disproportional forms of small firearms violence.
“Small firearms misuse is central to different forms of violence against women. Not only do small firearms facilitate violence against women, they also perpetuate a violent form of masculinity,” says an intelligence official preferring anonymity.
“It’s a global problem,” he says adding that many women experience violence worldwide at the hands of their partners at some point in their lives. This violence becomes even more dangerous when small firearms are present in the home, as they can be used to threaten, injure, and or kill women.
Regardless of the context, conflict or peace, the presence of guns invariably has the same effect: more guns mean more danger for women.
On May 2 this year, two unidentified youths fired shots on a woman, Shefali Begum, 45, at her knee at East Jurain. Shefali said she opened the door hearing the bell around 3:45pm and saw the youths. One of them fired shots without any provocation.
On February 21, 2011, some criminals shot a woman, Happy Akhter, now 23, in Dhaka City’s Malibagh Chowdhurypara area, leaving her critically injured. Happy said some people, perhaps drug peddlers, called her out over phone and shot her twice at the right leg and the left hand when she reached near Abul Hotel at Malibagh.
Also this year on May 29, a man was shot dead allegedly by his brother-in-law in Dhaka City’s Shahjahanpur area while trying to save his sister from her abusive husband. The victim was identified as Mojammel Hossain Milon, 45.
Police and neighbours said Hafizur Rahman Khan, a garment factory owner, married the younger sister of the victim several years back and used to torture her over flimsy excuses since the marriage.
On the fateful night, Hafiz engaged in an altercation with his wife over a trivial matter and at one stage beat her mercilessly, leaving her injured. He also put his pistol at his wife’s head in a bid to terrorise her. On information, Mojammel rushed to Hafiz`s Shantibagh apartment only to earn Hafiz’s wrath. The hot-headed man then shot Mojammel to death.
On April 17 this year, a minority community woman was gunned down by miscreants at Doyalpara village under Ruangchhari upazila of the district. The gunmen stormed into the house of Kutto Tanchangya, 42, wife of Doyalpara village chief, and shot her dead.
On April 6, also this year, a group of unidentified muggers gunned down a private business firm official as he tried to save three women from being robbed.
According to police, Kollol Group marketing manager Mohammad Hazrat Ali, 40, was shot dead by the muggers around 7am at Mirpur’s Rain Khola in the capital. Mirpur Police Station officer-in-charge Kazi Wazed Ali said, “Three women were out on a morning walk at Rain Khola’s ‘Cha’ (6) block when four to five muggers drove in a private car and tried to mug them. They shot Hazrat when he tried to protect the women. He died on the spot after being shot in his left chest.”
Although there is no available data on how many people are killed in Bangladesh due to gun violence, gun deaths are the second leading cause of deaths in the United States as more than 34,000 Americans are killed by firearms each year.
On March 15, 2010, a volunteer of the Advocacy Project (AP) used the setting of a major UN meeting to denounce the horrific damage caused by gun violence against women and girls within families and elsewhere.
Speaking before diplomats at a panel event during the UN Commission on the Status of Women last week, Rebecca Gerome, 23, described her work as a peace fellow last summer with the Women’s Peace Collective in the Colombian city of Cali:
“Somewhere in Colombia, a girl is hiding. Somewhere in Colombia, a woman is silently enduring her husband’s beatings raped in front of her community. Somewhere in Colombia, a woman’s… somewhere in Colombia, an adolescent girl is being tears are being silenced. What do all these stories have in common? One word – Guns.”
Apart from family violence, small firearms are widely used against women in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the region in committing various heinous crimes like kidnapping, rape and trafficking. With the easy availability of the small firearms, the problem keeps on spreading.
Accessibility of Firearms
According to the Global Facilitation Network for Security Sector Reform (GFN-SSR), a UK-based organisation, the accessibility of firearms in Bangladesh is typified by the relatively safe movement enjoyed by international arms smugglers across the country’s borders. In regard to human security, the emerging gun culture in Bangladesh has contributed to an increasing number of violent criminal activities. Small firearms and light weapons (SALW) also threaten national security, while failure to stop incidents of violent confrontation could lead to economic insecurity.
The key sources of illegal SALW in Bangladesh were perceived to be smuggling and trafficking, homemade weapons and weapons leaked from state stocks. Community consultations revealed the extent to which these SALW were perceived to have influenced human and national security, resulting in the following feelings:
• People fear sudden outbreak of armed violence and live in constant fear for their lives. Feelings of insecurity are increased by the perception that law enforcement agencies are unwilling to address communities’ concerns.
• Firearms are perceived to play a significant role in elections. Local criminal syndicates often assist candidates, while armed cadres manipulate the democratic process. SALW are also prominent in student political violence.
• Business and investment suffer from extortion, gun-running, rent-seeking and tender-related crime. As a result, prices of essential goods have risen, relative poverty has increased, investment has dwindled and businesses are failing.
• SALW pose an acute threat to women and children, exacerbating their already vulnerable situation. While rape has become increasingly common, corruption and the prospect of abuser retaliation have prevented women from seeking justice.
• Firearms and explosives are a significant threat to the long and short term integrity of development. Armed violence, for example, has impeded progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.
• The availability of SALW and their use in the political process has led to the rapid development of a culture of violence.
Small firearms are also manufactured locally in illegal factories found all over Bangladesh. However, the most important source of small firearms in Bangladesh is through smuggling. Chittagong port and its neighbouring areas are major sources of firearms smuggling in Bangladesh.
The transit of arms across Bangladesh occurs in coastal areas. Cox’s Bazzar in particular are used in firearms transit; ports reportedly used as transit routes for drugs from the so-called golden triangle.
It is estimated that there are about 200,000 illegal firearms in Bangladesh, a fourth of which is in Dhaka. There are 80 syndicated terrorist and criminal groups in the country. About 600 to 700 illegal firearms enter the country every day through its borders.
Small firearms come from various sources in Bangladesh. Surprisingly, the government itself is a major source for spread of these weapons. A large number of them are looted from law enforcement agencies. Criminals, terrorists and extremists also get these weapons through legal channels.
Talking to news agency UNB, intelligence officials recently said the country’s law and order situation might become unstable as cadres of different political groups were learned to have been buying smuggled small firearms.
The increasing use of small firearms in different criminal activities, including murder, robbery and extortion, has increased the smuggling of firearms from across the border.
They said syndicates from two sides of the border control such smuggling of firearms. Despite strong security measures, gunrunners are bringing in the firearms amid rising demand from political cadres for creating violence in the country.
The sources informed that in capital Dhaka alone 40 syndicates are operating to deal with illegal firearms. These syndicates keep constant contacts with the gunrunners from across the border.
The smugglers sell the small firearms and also explosives to terrorist groups in Dhaka, Chittagong and other places across the country. Gangsters prefer small firearms because these are less risky to carry than heavy ones.
According to a key intelligence agency, Indian-made small firearms named as ‘Belgharia’, ‘Moyur’ and ‘Chhakka’ are being smuggled into the country through the south-western frontier, which is easier for transportation.
Besides, single shooter guns, revolvers, pistol, sten-guns and rifles also enter the country through the north-eastern frontier.
On average, each firearm is sold between Tk 25,000 and over Tk 0.1 million. Unsuspecting low income people are often used as carriers of the smuggled firearms.
According to Bangladesh Development Partnership Centre (BDPC), a non-government institution, there are nearly 0.4 million unauthorised firearms in the country, of which about 0.2 million are being used in terrorist activities.
BDPC says political party cadres control about 50 percent of the illegal arms while 30 percent by smugglers and 20 percent by outlawed outfits and robbers in the coastal areas.
The intelligence agencies have advised the government machinery to take immediate steps to stop to the smuggling of firearms and explosives that may be used in terrorist activities by political groups.
The agencies said such smuggled firearms may also be used by the underground outfits to create instability in the country.
Major (retd) Abdur Razzak says the solution to this problem involves turning people away from violence in the broader sense and away from seeing a gun or other weapon as a way to settle a dispute.
So, educating and motivating people about violence and guns are very important. He says we need to be careful while issuing licenses; a gun license should not be given on political consideration and it has to be done considering one’s education, financial condition and family status. Above all checking the smuggling of small firearms would be a wise use of time.
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