Women, Peace and Security
Women and their dependents in conflict zones are likely to lose access to adequate healthcare, including safe contraceptive methods as a greater proportion of money is being directed into war. Armed conflict often leads to a reduction in formal medical or psychological support for home-based carers, most of whom are women.
Sexual violence against women during conflict is a tactic of war that has reached epidemic proportions. For example, up to 500,000 women were raped, many at gunpoint, in Rwanda in 1994. Further, more than 75 per cent of displaced people are women and children, and in some refugee populations they constitute 90 per cent. It is also estimated that close to 90 per cent of current war casualties are civilians, the majority of whom are women and children, compared to a century ago when 90 per cent of those who lost their lives were military personnel.IANSA. Women and Armed Conflict. DAW. Women and Armed Conflict. Fact Sheet #5.
Table of Contents
UN Security Council Resolutions
On 30 September 2009, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1888 (United Nations Security Council Resolution 1888) that aims to further strengthen the efforts of the international community to combat sexual violence in armed conflict. The resolution, co-sponsored by more than 60 UN Member States, calls on the UN Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative to intensify efforts to end sexual violence against women and children in conflict situations and who should engage on a high level with military and civilian leaders. Later, in October 2009, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1889 was also passed.
SCR 1888 builds on two earlier resolutions: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted in October 2000, which provides a political framework that makes women and a gender perspective relevant to all aspects of peace processes; and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1820, adopted in June 2008, which recognizes the links between sexual violence in armed conflict and its aftermath, and sustainable peace and security. SCR 1820 commits the Security Council to considering appropriate steps to end sexual violence and to punish the perpetrators and requests a report from the UN Secretary-General on situations in which sexual violence is being widely or systematically employed against civilians and on strategies for ending the practice. Through SCR 1888, the Special Representative would coordinate a range of mechanisms and oversee implementation of both SCR 1325 and SCR 1888.
Beijing Platform for Action
Strategic objective E.1. 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.
Strategic objective E.2. Reduce excessive military expenditures and control the availability of armaments.
Strategic objective E.3. Promote non-violent forms of conflict resolution and reduce the incidence of human rights abuse in conflict situations.
Strategic objective E.4. Promote women’s contribution to fostering a culture of peace.
Strategic objective E.5. Provide protection, assistance and training to refugee women, other displaced women in need of international protection and internally displaced women.
Strategic objective E.6. Provide assistance to the women of the colonies and non-self-governing territories.Beijing Platform for Action
Some other international instruments
The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 1949, and the Additional Protocols of 1977 provide that women shall especially be protected against any attack on their honour, in particular against humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution or any form of indecent assault. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights, states that “violations of the human rights of women in situations of armed conflict are violations of the fundamental principles of international human rights and humanitarian law”.
Article 27 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, in response to the aggressive reprisal upon women during World War II, states, “Women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honor, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault.” It further denounces these actions based upon “nationality, race, religious beliefs, age, marital status or social condition.”
Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, addressing civilian and/or military authorities who involve themselves in cases of international armed conflicts, as well as colonial domination and racist regimes, states women “shall be protected in particular against rape, forced prostitution, and any other form of indecent assault.” Many acts of sexual violence – including rape, gang rape, abduction and sexual slavery, forced marriage, forced pregnancy, forced maternity, and sexual mutilation – constitute torture under customary international law. These acts are considered war crimes and constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Convention.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court recognizes rape and other forms of sexual violence by combatants in the conduct of armed conflict as war crimes. When rape and sexual violence are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, they are considered crimes against humanity, and in some cases may constitute an element of genocide.
The Jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda recognizes rape and other forms of sexual violence by combatants in the conduct of armed conflict as war crimes. When rape and sexual violence are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, they are considered crimes against humanity and in some cases may constitute an element of genocide.
General conclusions from an ICRC Study on Women and War
-Women should not be considered solely as “victims” or “vulnerable”
-Women experience armed conflicts in a multitude of ways
-International humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law afford protection according to the needs of women in situations of armed conflicts
-Women suffer in war today not because of an absence of law, but because of the lack of implementation of, and/or respect for, existing laws
-Sexual violence is unacceptable and not inevitable. There needs to be a much more comprehensive response to sexual violence
-It is important to involve women in the assessment, implementation and evaluation of programmes and activities carried out in their favour
-In its focus on women, the Women facing War study does not negate the needs of men
-In the waging of today’s war, parties to armed conflict are more and more often not distinguishing between combatants and civilians.
-The blurring of this distinction risks an unacceptable spiral towards “total war” (i.e. any civilian, solely through their presence in an area where war is being waged, risks being targeted by a party to an armed conflict.)
-Access to victims and conflict-affected areas is absolutely essential in order to try to put a stop to violations and/or to try to bring assistance and protection to affected persons.
The study concluded that: women are not solely “victims” or “vulnerable” in need of protection and assistance. It drew attention to the fact that women take part in armed conflicts as members of the regular armed forces or armed groups and in their support services. This means that women in such circumstances cannot be automatically labeled as “vulnerable”. Women are also politicians, leaders of non-governmental organisations, social and political groups, and active participants in peace campaigns.
The study determined that, on the whole, international law adequately covers the needs of women in situations of armed conflict, when the three bodies of law – international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law in particular – are taken together. This means that sexual violence, in all its forms, as well as indiscriminate attacks, violence and threats are prohibited under international humanitarian law. Why then are women subjected to such violations? The issue in reality is that this law is all too frequently ignored; therefore, the difficulty lies in assuring its implementation and respect.
Furthermore, the study determined that the need to assure protection for women taking no active part in hostilities must be better disseminated to all parties to an armed conflict, armed forces, security forces and police forces. This law needs to be better understood, enforced and respected. In addition to trying to prevent sexual violence, more needs to be done to assist and support those who are victims of such violations.ICRC. Women and War.
- Focus of the week 3-7 May : women, peace and security
- Girl Child Soldiers
- International Law and War Rape
- International Criminal Court (ICC) and Gender
- United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict
- Beijing Platform for Action
- Women and the Conflict in Afghanistan
- Women and the Conflict in Colombia
- Women and the Conflict in DRC
- Women and the Conflict in Darfur
- Women and the Conflict in Iraq
- Women and the Conflict in Sri Lanka
- Conversations for a Better World
- ICRC Study
- Women, Peace and Security: Report of the UN Secretary General, 2008
- Women, Peace and Security: UN, 2002
- Gender Report Card of the ICC: ICC Women, 2007
- War and its Impact on Women in Sri Lanka: Refugee Watch
- Sexual Violence against Women and Girls in War and its Aftermath: UNFPA
- Women, War and Peace: ReliefWeb /UNIFEM