“Moving ahead with Women, Peace and Security”: From conflict intervention to peacebuilding support
United Nations adopted the UN Resolution 1325 in the year 2000. It was, for the first time, UN’s acknowledgement to women’s situation during armed conflict and violent areas along with their crucial role in conflict resolutions,which now was on the agenda of the Security Council. It was a key step in addressing women right’sand gender equalityin the United Nations agenda for peace and security. Moreover, the Resolution 1325 wasn’t the only document adopted by the UN, there were many other resolutions passed to address women’s security during conflict and acute violence. Also, United Nations established a dedicated organ, the UN Womenaiming topromote gender equality and women’s empowermentestablishing a platform for advocating issues of violence towards women,prevention of violence against women in pre-conflict, conflict and post-conflict zones.
Although, over 16 years of adoption of first UNSC resolution on women, peace and security, the ground reality seems to be quite different, even today, especially in societies where women continue to face social discrimination and violation particularly in armed conflict and areas with poor representation of peace. Also, the implementation of the resolution is adversely affected by terrorism and violent extremismwhich has directly affected the rights of women and girls posing a grave threat to the international agendas of peace.
It is imperative for international aid agencies, security agencies, governmental institutions and other development agencies to address the impact of violation of human rights of women and girlsalong with violent extremism, especially their impact on health, education, and social life. It is undoubtedly true, that, women and girls are vulnerable to violence from the terror groupsand many insurgents use gender based and sexual violence as a weapon to achieve their strategic objectives and terror tactics. Inspite of this being well debated and discussed frequently, policy makers are unable to address the issue urgently and effectively.
Role of women in contemporary politics
It is true that conflicts have devastating effects on women which further increases the gender gap and reinforces inequality between men and women. If we look at the contemporary politics, soldiers are not the worst casualties of war. Conflicts have a devastating consequence on changing Military leadership and account for most of the casualties in war. Violation of human rights goes unrecorded and women become victims of war.
Women – Victims and weapons of war
Although, many communities are adversely affected by conflict, women and girls are the most vulnerable. As victims of war, they are prone to sexual violence that are motivated by the faction leaders. Moreover, women and children are used as weapon of war in an effort to destroy their identity, and disrupting the social chains linking to families and communities. It is mostly done to terrorize the community, converting religions and changing ethnic culture of individuals. Even in the aftermath of the conflict, the impacts of sexual violence can also be seen, especially with women victimised of sexual violence and abuse.
It is also important for us to understand that; the sexual violence is not new. It disrupted entire communities in the civil war of Rwanda (1994), civil war in Sierra Leone (1991-2002), civil war in Liberia (1989-2003) along with the former Yugoslavia (1992-1995), and in the civil war of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1998). These are just a few examples to show the extent of violence against women in wars. Unfortunately, they continue to happen even today. Today, relating exclusively to the Syrian conflict, violence against women did not stop and women rights were violated by all the factors–the Assad regime, the terror factions and the civil fighters (especially the Free Syrian Army and other militia factions)–which today, continues to destabilize the peace process. Other acts of violence against women includes murder, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy and forced sterilization. Above it, women comprised of a large displaced populationsand refugees.
Women – Actors of change
Women are not only the victims of war. Throughout the conflict, they perform variety of actions. Somewhere you will find them leading peaceful demonstrationsin an effort to bring recovery and stability after aconflict, on the other end, you will find them assisting in peace processes, helping aid agencies in distributing medical and aids in the effected areas. Undoubtedly, women are active agents in peace processes astheir participation is crucial in achieving sustainability and restoring security in post conflict regions.
Indeed, no matter how important, the role of participation of women in peacebuilding processes be, women are mostly absent during key discussionsand are excluded from post conflict negotiations, discussions and post conflict reconstruction processes. This exclusion from post conflict discussions and reconstruction initiationslimits opportunities for women, furthermore declines any chance for justice for violations of human rights and abuses conducted to them and any participation forming new laws and reforming any. It is important to understand the need for women participation not only in governance but also in leadership in key institutions as it increases governance, ensures sustainable development of communities during peace processes. It is imperative for women to participate in the peace building process as Mediators, facilitators and actively participate inpeace-making, peacekeeping and peacebuilding processes.
Role of justice and Accountability
During the aftermath of a conflict, gender sensitivity and the rule of law is mostly absent, thus during the peacebuilding process policy makers need to understand the rule of law essential for sustaining peace and development in the region. Perpetrators of heinous crimes against women should be prosecuted within the boundaries of lawin an effort to provide justice to the womenand prevent any crimes in future. It is moreover important for policy makers to understand that, prosecuting those responsible for heinous crimes committed during the conflict and post conflict years not only address the crimes against women, but effectively address social discrimination in the society of whichwomen and girls are mostly effected throughout the conflict.
Effects of Terrorism, Violent Extremism on Women
The growing acts of terrorism, violent extremism continues to terrorise the lives of women and undoubtedly, has become the biggest threat to women and children. Militant groups such as Daesh and Boko Haram have been, on numerous occasions, targeted women specifically, and continues to do so even today.Some women were brain washed, recruited into terrorist cells, while some have taken the fight to these militants by arming themselves against terrorists. The hardest hit are the women peacekeepers who are eventually targeted, disrupting their efforts to maintain peace in the region. These women peacekeepers have to follow certain mandates, preventing them to counter offense these militants, crippling their ability to respondand restricting their access to key resources and financial aids.
Role of Women in peace and stability
Now is the time of policy makers to focus on the agenda of women, peace and security, especially during the peacekeeping missions. Today, women comprise of just over 3% of the forces involved in peacekeeping missions, whereas most of the them are deployed as support staffs. It is imperative for political leaders and policy makers to address the issue if gender disparity within the United Nationsas for the successful completion and achievement of the targets, role of women is crucial not only for the development of the society but also in the overall development of the country. The issues of sexual exploitation should be immediately addressed by establishing fast track courts and over watch institutions involving over 60% of women members. There is an immediate need to establish truth and reconciliation courts under women leadership.
It is important for regional and local institutions to establish infrastructure and development institutions under the leadership of womenin an effort topromote gender equalityand women empowerment.Such institutions will be able to effectively resolve issue of violence conflict and post-conflict situations. These organizations should then be able to address the issue of Women Peace and Security effectively and efficiently. It is also important for government institutions to:
- Create and promote sustainable environment of peace by implementing the resolutions discussed within the United Nations resolutions and other initiatives.
- To increase women participation in key decision making processes especially during post conflict scenarios.
- To design key legislations and programs in an effort to effectively address safety of women and girls
- Active promotion of socio-economic recoveryand active political participation of women within the community.
It is also important to note that, women are adversely effected during violence making it a key issue to be addressed during the Sustainable Development Agenda. It is important for political leadership to prioritise the issue of Women participation and violence towards women in post conflict and conflict areaswhile discussing sustainable development agenda.
Over the past years, international community has addressed the issue of women participation during peace processes and adopted numerous resolutions in preventing violence against women, however, such crucial agenda’s is far from reaching the implementation stage. There is a significant gap between the commitments and their implementation. Beyond resolutions, it is imperative for policy makers to address the issue of women, peace and security while creating lucrative policies in lessening the gap, while reinforcing key legislatures on violence against women especially by acts of terrorism. In the region where militants have prioritised abusing rights of women and using them as a weapon of war, policy makers need to act urgently.
Anant Mishra is a former Youth Representative to the United Nations. He has served extensively in United Nations General Assembly, the Security Council along with the Economic and Social Council. He is also a visiting faculty for numerous universities and delivers lectures on political economics and foreign policies.