Sunday, May 29, 2016

Women in War zones

By William Kin
War, an action created by humankind in a last attempt to restore peace. Families are destroyed, starvation is unavoidable but most importantly, females become vulnerable. Society will choose to focus on the roles of male in combat but pay little attention to females in conflict zones.

Women’s role in armed conflicts
Some cultures and society still connect gender to a particular role, such as a housewife, engineer, lecturer etc. However, in an armed conflict environment, women and girls are subjected to often play a more active role such as being a combatant, spy, a messenger and porters[1].

It is very seldom to find women and girls totally absent in an armed conflict environment. Women and girls often enter into a conflict zone for certain reason such as acting against unjust and predatory governments, support of religious or ideological goals and pursuit of economic incentives. Some examples include fighting liberation in Columbia, El Salvador, Eritrea, Guatemala, Namibia, Palestine and Timor-Leste. However, some women and girls have also been forced to join militant campaign through abduction, intimidation and forced recruitment such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Northern Uganda[2].

Even though women try to uplift their society status by taking part in armed conflict environment, and at times their involvement is often portrayed as a group’s emancipating intentions. Once an armed conflict is over, women are often relegated to their subordinate position in society for the sake of peace or stability thus the involvement in conventional and unconventional armed forces has never fundamentally changed their social position[3].

The United Nations and UN Women
Four world conferences were held namely in Mexico, Copenhagen, Nairobi and Beijing between 1975 and 1995 where gender equality norms were discussed. These world conferences provided an international platform for intergovernmental negotiations and women’s organization to make their claims and for networking.

Several outcomes were achieved in these conferences. In Mexico, the conference was focused on the need to develop goals, effective strategies and plans of action for the achievement of women and girls’. Three objectives were observed[4].

·         Full gender equality and the elimination of gender discrimination
·         The integration and full participation of women in development
·         An increased contribution of women in the strengthening of world peace
The second conference held in Copenhagen in 1980, showed that the UN had started to frame Women’s Rights and Gender equality as an important component of their peace and security work. The report from the conference specified the following:

“In accordance with their obligation under the Charter to maintain peace and security and to achieve international cooperation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, bearing in mind, in this respect, the right to live in peace. States should help women to participate in promoting international cooperation for the sake of preparation of societies for a life in peace (paragraph 33)”

In 1985, the third world conference adopted the Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, with the goals of equality, development, and peace as a blueprint for action until 2000. The document links the promotion and maintenance of peace to the eradication of violence against women at all levels of society in which paragraph 13 clearly states that the full effective promotion of women’s right can be best occur in conditions of international peace and security. Peace includes not only the absence of war, violence, and hostilities at the national and international levels, but also the enjoyment of economic and social justice, equality, and the entire range of human rights and fundamental freedoms within society. Peace cannot be realized under conditions of economic and sexual inequality, denial of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, deliberate exploitation of large sectors of the population, unequal development of countries, and exploitative economic relations[5].

The documents also urges members of state to take action through their constitution and legal route to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, as well as to tailor national strategies to facilitate the participation of women in efforts to promote peace and development[6]. Adding to this document, it also included specific recommendations for women’s empowerment with respect to health, education and employment.

The Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action was produced in Beijing in 1995, the fourth world conference for women. The Declaration committed governments to implement the strategies agreed in Nairobi in 1985 before the end of the 20th century and to mobilize resources for the implementation of the Platform for Action[7].

The Platform is considered the most completed document to be produced by a UN conference on women’s rights since its incorporates achievements from earlier conferences and treaties, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) , and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action which was produced at a global human rights conference in 1993[8].

The Beijing Platform for Action was critical because it identified women, and armed conflict as one of the 12 critical areas of concern, 6 strategic areas were identified[9]

·         Increase the participation of women in conflict resolution at decision-making levels and protect women living in situations of armed and other conflicts or under foreign occupation.
·         Reduce excessive military expenditures and control the availability of armaments.
·         Promote non-violent forms of conflict resolution and reduce the incidence of human rights abuse in conflict situations
·         Promote women’s contribution to fostering a culture of peace.
·         Provide protection, assistance, and training to refugee women, internally displaced women, and other displaced women in need of international protection
·         Provide assistance to the women of colonies and non-self-governing territories.
In 2011, the Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) was formed in which it was dedicated to gender equality. Previous UN agencies The Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), The Office of the Special Advisor on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI) and The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) was brought together under the UN Women.
The objectives set out by UN Women are[10]

·         Support inter-governmental bodies, such as the Commission on the Status of Women, in their formulation of policies, global standards, and norms
·         Help Member states to implement these standards, standing ready to provide suitable technical and financial support to those countries that request it, and to forge effective partnerships with civil society
·         Hold the UN system accountable for its own commitments on gender equality, including regular monitoring of system-wide progress.
The birth of SCR 1325 (2000)
Beyond these efforts specifically focused on gender issues, other areas within the UN system have shifted, creating space for gender issues to appear in new contexts, particularly that of international peace and security[11], such examples include the violence that occurred in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in 1990. The UN held several meetings to address the issue of responsibility to protect civilians during war, it was here that SCR 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) was adopted.
SCR 1325 (2000) is the first resolution to be passed by the Security Council on the 31 October 2000 that specifically addressed the impact of war on women and girls, as well as women’s contribution to conflict resolution and the maintenance  of peace and security[12]. Since 1997, gender mainstreaming[13] has been the official UN policy which emphasized in the armed conflict and security side of the UN.
After adopting SCR 1325 (2000), several other resolutions were adopted relating to WPS at the Security Council. SCR 1820 (2008) was adopted on June 2008 which recognizes that sexual violence as a tactic of warfare is a matter of international peace and security. Following this, two more resolutions were adopted, namely SCR 1888 (2009) and SCR 1889 (2009). SCR 1888 (2009) highlighted sexual violence in armed conflict but also called for rapid deployment of gender advisers and experts to monitor such situations and work with UN personnel as well as appointment of a Special Representative to the Security-General on sexual violence and conflict[14]. SCR 1889 (2009) calls for greater participation of women in all areas of peacebuilding, specifically citing the need for monitors to ensure that this inclusion happens and that indicators will be developed to ensure the effective implementation and monitoring of SCR 1325 (2000)[15]. Both SCR 1888 (2009) and SCR (1889) emphasizes the need accountability to the predecessor resolution.
On the 16 December 2010, the Security Council passed resolution SCR 1960 (2010) in which it reaffirmed previous resolution but importantly strengthened SCR 1888 (2009) by deploying gender experts and reminding Member States that those who commit sexual violence (women and children) should be prosecuted.
Resolution 2106 was adopted on the 24 June 2013 at the UN Security Council under its WPS agenda which focuses on sexual violence in armed conflict, reiterating commitments to prevent and respond to this issue as a matter of international peace and security. The resolution consisted of the following[16]
·         A focus on efforts to end impunity for sexual violence affecting not only large numbers of women and girls, but also men and boys, while emphasizing the need for consistent and rigorous investigation and prosecution of sexual violence crimes as the main point of concern in prevention efforts
·         Further deployment of Women Protection Advisers (WPAs) in accordance with UNSCR 1888 and the strengthening of data collection on sexual violence
·         The need to ensure women’s participation in all aspects of mediation, post-conflict recovery, and peacebuilding
·         The need to address sexual violence in conflict in the establishment of mandates, missions, and other relevant work of the Security Council.
Resolution 2122 was passed unanimously on the 18 October 2013 at the Security Council where it places stronger measures to enable women to participate in conflict resolution and recovery. It also seeks to strengthen the Council’s working methods on this agenda: to bring women, peace, and security issues into other thematic areas such as terrorism, non-proliferation, conflict prevention in Africa, and rule of law[17].
Women as Peacemakers
More is needed to be done to include women in formal circles and decision-making during armed conflict and the peace processes that follow[18]. Women have played a substantial role in peacebuilding from the grass-roots level where researchers have found
women, although less visible than men, have long been integrally involved in seeking solutions to issues intrinsic to building peace, including ecological balance, demobilization and reintegration of former child soldiers, demilitarization and disarmament, and sustainable economic, environmental, and political development. Furthermore, women are resource managers, advocates for other women in emergency and crisis situations, leaders in political processes, and community influentials. …Women often develop informal or formal groups and processes that contribute to peacebuilding and the construction of democratic societies[19].
However, women receive little or no recognition during the peace process that is, they are rarely included in formal negotiations as members of the opposition group, political parties, civil society or even special-interest groups[20]. A review was done by the UN women of 21 major peace processes from 1992 to 2008. Surprisingly, there was a low number of women participants that was involved in the peace process and more importantly the figure did not rise even after adopting SCR 1320 (2000). Adding to the review, only 2.4% of signatories were women, and no women was appointed to lead as a peace-mediator in UN-sponsored peace talks. Apart from the UN, other organisation such as the African Union and other institutions made women part of the team of mediators, this included Graça Machel (Former education and Culture Minister of Mozambique and First lady of South Africa and Mozambique) who was one of the three mediators for the Kenya crisis in 2008.
In 2011, women was represented in the mediation support of teams, where they were part of 12 of the 14 United Nations Co-led peace negotiations. However, out of the 14 peace processes only 4 of the negotiating team included women delegate.
Conclusion
It is clear that women are under-represented in the peace processes which poses serious challenges to the international community in endorsing and protecting women’s right. These issues, as most practitioners believe, are not simply what the peace process or should do for women but what can women do for the peace processes in order to benefit the society.



[1] Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Asia and the Pacific, Peace Operation Training Institute, 2014
[2] Dyan Mazurana, Susan McKay, Khristopher Carlson, and Janel Kasper. “Girls in fighting forces: Their recruitment, participation, demobilization, and reintegration”, Peace and Conflict, vol 8, No. 2 (2002), p. 27
[3] Marie Vlachová and Lea Biason, eds. Women in an Insecure World: Violence against Women Facts, Figures and Analysis (Geneva, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, 2005), p. 136
[4] Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Asia and the Pacific, Peace Operation Training Institute, 2014
[5], Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Asia and the Pacific, Peace Operation Training Institute, 2014
[6] Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Asia and the Pacific, Peace Operation Training Institute, 2014
[7] Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Asia and the Pacific, Peace Operation Training Institute, 2014
[8] Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Asia and the Pacific, Peace Operation Training Institute, 2014
[9] Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Asia and the Pacific, Peace Operation Training Institute, 2014
[10] Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Asia and the Pacific, Peace Operation Training Institute, 2014
[11] Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Asia and the Pacific, Peace Operation Training Institute, 2014
[12] Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Asia and the Pacific, Peace Operation Training Institute, 2014
[13] Gender mainstreaming is both a strategy to achieve gender equality and a goal in itself. It means bringing the perceptions, experience, knowledge, and interests of women and men to bear on policymaking, planning, and decision-making  
[14] Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Asia and the Pacific, Peace Operation Training Institute, 2014
[15] Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Asia and the Pacific, Peace Operation Training Institute, 2014
[16] Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Asia and the Pacific, Peace Operation Training Institute, 2014
[17] Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Asia and the Pacific, Peace Operation Training Institute, 2014
[18] Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Asia and the Pacific, Peace Operation Training Institute, 2014
[19] Dyan Mazurana, Susan McKay, and International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, “Women and peacebuilding”, Essays on Human Rights and Democratic Development, No. 8 (Montreal,International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, 1999), p. 2. See also “From the ground up: Women’s roles in localpeacebuilding in Afghanistan, Liberia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sierra Leone” (2012) Action Aid, IDS and Womankind http://www.actionaid.org/publications/ground-womens-role-localpeacebuilding-afghanistan-liberia-nepal-pakistan-and-sierra-
[20] Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Asia and the Pacific, Peace Operation Training Institute, 2014

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