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State of World Population 2010

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Chapter Two

A resolution and reality: a decade on the ground

By early 2000, when the United Nations Security Council began to focus on how to protect women during conflict and demand that they be factored into the prevention of war and the building of lasting peace, the world had experienced a decade of ethnic, sometimes genocidal wars that killed many more civilians than combatants. Paradoxically, however, the 1990s had also been a period of unprecedented international progress and commitment to women.

Estella Bamba, a United Nations Police officer from Zambia advises Liberian police at the Salem Police Station in Monrovia.
©VII Photo/Marcus Bleasdale

The highlights were the international conferences on human rights in 1993 in Vienna, population and development in 1994 in Cairo and women’s status and rights in 1995 in Beijing. All three of the conferences addressed issues of women in conflicts and included actions to protect their rights. The time was right for bridging the gap between promises and reality.

In its preamble to resolution 1325, the Council noted that “an understanding of the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, effective institutional arrangements to guarantee their protection and full participation in the peace process can significantly contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security.” With this resolution, the Council had made an historic decision to broaden the definition of its mandate. The treatment of women and their roles in war and peace would henceforth be factored into considerations of international security.

Anwarul Chowdhury of Bangladesh was a member of the Security Council at the time and has never forgotten the power of that moment. “Adoption of 1325 opened a much-awaited door of opportunity for women who have shown time and again that they bring a qualitative improvement in structuring peace and in post-conflict architecture,” he wrote in an opinion article for Inter Press Service in March 2010. Taken together, he said, “The Beijing Platform for Action and 1325 are unparalleled in terms of what they can do to empower women, not only to give 50 per cent of the world’s population their due but also to make the world a better place to live. But where do we stand in terms of their implementation?”

[6] Human rights and violence against women

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted by 189 countries at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, underlined that violence against women is both a violation of women’s human rights and an impediment to the full enjoyment by women of all human rights. The focus shifted to demanding State accountability for action to prevent and eliminate violence against women. The Beijing Platform for Action identified critical areas of concern that require urgent action to achieve the goals of equality, development and peace; one of these areas was violence against women.

Recognizing violence against women as a violation of human rights clarifies the binding obligations on States to prevent, eradicate and punish such violence and their accountability if they fail to comply with these obligations. These obligations arise from the duty of States to take steps to respect, protect, promote and fulfil human rights.

Claims on the State to take all appropriate measures to respond to violence against women thus move from the realm of discretion and become legal entitlements. The human rights framework provides access to a number of tools and mechanisms that have been developed to hold States accountable at the international and regional level. These include the human rights treaty bodies and international criminal tribunals, as well as the African, European and inter-American human rights systems.

Source: In-depth study on all forms of violence against women: Report of the Secretary-General,
6 July 2006

Chowdhury was President of the Security Council in March 2000, when the issue of protecting and involving women was brought to the table. “I was accused of bringing a soft issue onto the agenda, and this was fiercely resisted,” he said in an interview. “Intellectually they did not connect women and security.” It took until October 2000 for the resolution to pass.

Monrovia, Liberia’s Salem Police Station, where women make up 25 per cent of the force.
©VII Photo/Marcus Bleasdale

Resolution 1325 made some specific requests to the Secretary-General and the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations. These included expanding the role of women among military observers, civilian police, human rights officers and humanitarian personnel. The resolution does not carry the weight of enforcement under the United Nations Charter’s Chapter 7, which allows the Security Council to impose sanctions or authorize military intervention. It “expresses its willingness to incorporate a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations, and urges the Secretary-General [who as head of the United Nations Secretariat oversees the peacekeeping department] to ensure that, where appropriate, field operations include a gender component.”

Response was deemed slow, and so the Security Council did not stop with 1325. Resolution 1820, adopted on 19 June 2008, directed stronger language to combatants of all kinds and to governments, which have the responsibility to protect citizens. The resolution “demands the immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians with immediate effect.” It calls for the exclusion of sex crimes from amnesty provisions in peace agreements and reminds all parties to any conflict that “rape and sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.” These crimes have been codified in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and applied to regional war crimes tribunals. For years incidents of gender-based violence had by then been widely reported, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

[7] Towards reliable data

UNFPA and other United Nations entities are developing new systems for gathering and analysing sex-disaggregated data to inform humanitarian interventions in conflict, post-conflict and emergency situations. Data, especially on gender-based violence, have so far been scarce or non-existent.

In October 2009, in response to a request by the Security Council, the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Women and Peace and Security established a Technical Working Group on Global Indicators for monitoring implementation of resolution 1325 by the United Nations and Member States. UNFPA is a member of this Technical Working Group and is helping draft a final set of indicators that the United Nations Secretary-General will present to the Security Council in October 2010.

UNFPA, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Rescue Committee, developed a Gender-Based Violence Information Management System, which may serve as a model to enhance data-backed programming and improve coordination in the field. The pilot system is an effort to systematize management of relevant data across the humanitarian community. The new system would provide a standard tool and methodology for data collection and analysis, improve the reliability of gender-based violence-related information within humanitarian settings and improve decision-making at local, country and global levels.

Starting 2009, UNFPA, UNIFEM and the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women have sought to build national capacities for developing National Action Plans on resolution 1325 and for developing or refining of indicators in these plans to aid the monitoring of the implementation of resolution 1325 (and resolution 1820). In 2009, Uganda and Sierra Leone developed such plans, with corresponding indicators.

A year and three months later, on 30 September 2009, the Security Council, in resolution 1888, reiterated its “deep concern that, despite its repeated condemnation of violence against women and children including all forms of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict, and despite its calls addressed to all parties to armed conflict for the cessation of such acts with immediate effect, such acts continue to occur, and in some situations have become systematic or widespread.” Five days after that resolution was passed, the Security Council weighed in again, asking for more reporting on how resolution 1325 was being implemented by governments and by the United Nations itself.

By mid-2010, 18 of the United Nations 192 Member States had produced national action plans that would commit them to joining a global effort to protect and include women in decisions and actions on war and peace. Those compliant nations, with plans adapted to their differing situations, were Austria, Belgium, Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Liberia, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Portugal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Uganda and the United Kingdom. Of those, five were actively involved in post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding. More nations were reported in midyear to be working on national plans, which are important not only as signs of commitment but also as a way of institutionalizing the resolutions within governments and identifying those officials or offices responsible for implementation. As the 10th anniversary of the adoption of resolution 1325 neared, more of these plans were expected to be completed and published, with an expectation that they would also be progressively implemented.

[8] How Filipinos wrote their own 1325 action plan

A country’s response to a United Nations request for a national road map for implementing resolution 1325 does not necessarily have to wait for a government to act. In the Philippines, where there has been conflict, citizens took the initiative. Jasmin Galace, Associate Director of the Center for Peace Education, tells how it happened.

The story began with three women who met in the cafeteria of a women’s college in the Philippines in late 2007 and wondered if there had been any developments on the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 in the country. The three women got in touch with the Philippine Commission on Women and together they organized a national workshop for peace organizations and women’s groups to raise awareness of the resolution and ask if there were initiatives to implement it. They wanted to know how the resolution could gain ground. The workshop was organized by the International Women’s Tribune Centre; Sulong CARHRIHL, a peace and human rights organization, and the Philippine Commission on Women.

The result was a decision to develop a national action plan to implement both resolutions 1325 and 1820 and to invite the government’s peace agency, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, to lead in the development of a national action plan. A Preparatory Committee was organized to lead six regional consultations throughout the country. That committee developed an initial draft action plan on women, peace and security as a working document. The draft plan was enriched by several multi-stakeholders’ consultations conducted in six regions of the Philippines, from August to October 2009.

Participants in the consultations were government officers from both national and local agencies, members of the military and police, indigenous peoples, religious groups, grassroots sectors and civil society organizations working on peace, women and human rights issues. The consultations had on their agenda a situational analysis on women, peace and conflict, visions of peace, women’s initiatives related to peacebuilding and recommendations on what should be included in a national action plan.

In October 2009, a draft plan was presented at a national workshop of civil society organizations, sponsored by the International Women’s Tribune Center. A similar workshop was held for national level representatives of the same government agencies consulted in the regions. Then the draft national action plan was sent back to regional consultations’ participants for further comments and suggestions. The final editing of the national action plan was done by the preparatory committee in March 2010 and was launched on 25 March 2010.

The Philippine National Action Plan has four goals:

  • To ensure the protection of women’s human rights in armed conflict and post-conflict situations and the prevention of the violations of these rights;
  • To empower women and ensure their active and meaningful participation in areas of peacebuildng, peacekeeping, conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction;
  • To promote and mainstream a gender perspective in all aspects of conflict prevention, conflict resolution and
  • To institutionalize a monitoring and reporting system to monitor, evaluate and report in order to enhance accountability for the successful implementation of the National Action Plan and achievement of its goals.

Implementation of the plan began in April 2010 with the release of roughly $200,000 by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to women and peace organizations. The story continues with men and women working together to make sure that the Philippine National Action Plan serves as catalyst to transform the situation of women in the Philippines from victims to that of builders of peace in their respective communities and in the country as a whole.

In early 2010, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, responding to a request from the Security Council, appointed a special representative on sexual violence in conflict to prod all players into action. The Security Council's mandate was broad. Resolution 1888 "Requests that the United Nations Secretary-General appoint a Special Representative to provide coherent and strategic leadership, to work effectively to strengthen existing United Nations coordination mechanisms, and to engage in advocacy efforts, inter alia with governments, including military and judicial representatives, as well as with all parties to armed conflict and civil society, in order to address, at both headquarters and country level, sexual violence in armed conflict, while promoting cooperation and coordination of efforts among all relevant stakeholders, primarily through the inter-agency initiative United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict.

[9] The Brussels Call to Action

The international community must prevent sexual and gender-based violence by promoting gender equity and equality and the economic, social and political empowerment of women, declared representatives of governments, the United Nations, civil society, and the European Commission, at a symposium in Brussels in June 2006.

The group said that sexual violence prevention and protection should be incorporated into all aspects of humanitarian assistance, including food, fuel, water and sanitation and shelter, and investments were needed in building the capacities of all stakeholders involved in the prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence in conflict and beyond.

Read the full Brussels Call to Action online at http://www.unfpa.org/emergencies/symposium06/.

[10] “Gender-based violence”

Gender-based violence is an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will, and that is based on socially ascribed (gender) differences between males and females.

The term “gender-based violence” is often used interchangeably with the term “violence against women.” The term highlights the gender dimension of these types of acts; in other words, the relationship between females’ subordinate status in society and their increased vulnerability to violence. It is important to note, however, that men and boys may also be victims of gender-based violence, especially sexual violence.

Source: Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings, United Nations Inter-Agency Standing Committee

The Secretary General’s choice for this new assignment as special representative was Margot Wallström, a former minister in the Government of Sweden and Vice-President of the European Commission, where she was known for promoting issues related to women in security. She was also a strong European advocate for raising awareness about the urgency to implement United Nations Security Council resolutions on this theme. A month after Wallström’s appointment, in March 2010, the United Nations established an expert group, co-chaired by Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to coordinate United Nations support for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325.

Margot Wallström, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict speaking at event, “Unite to End Violence Against Women,” said that in contemporary conflict, rape is the frontline.
©UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

For its part, the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations is recruiting more women as civilian police officers for missions around the world. Some women are also serving as peacekeeping soldiers sent by their national armed services. In 2010, the department had nearly 124,000 people engaged in missions around the world, more than 100,000 of them in uniform. Included in the uniformed personnel by midyear were 13,680 police officers on active duty.

The proportion of women on the military and police side has grown steadily since resolution 1325 was passed. At the end of 2006, there were 1,034 women in the uniformed ranks. In December 2007 the number had grown to 1,360; a year later there were 1,794, still only a fraction of people in uniform. In 2009, when women represented only 7 per cent of United Nations police officers, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations began a global effort to recruit more women. The goal is 20 per cent women in police units by 2015.

Two countries, Bangladesh and India, among the top contributors of soldiers, also have exemplary records in contributing women to police work. India was the first, sending all-female police contingents to Liberia. An all-female Bangladeshi unit was recently assigned to Haiti, and a new Indian unit was on the way there also. Pakistan, another major United Nations troop contributor, is planning to create a women’s unit, and other countries are considering the idea. Nigeria plans to send an all-women unit to Liberia. These all-female units are separate, pre-formed, single-gender contingents.

[11] New guidelines for peacekeepers

The prioritization of sexual violence by the international community, especially since 2000, “reflects an understanding that the credibility of peacekeeping operations is at stake if they are unable to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, including sexual violence,” states a new set of guidelines for military peacekeepers published by the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, UNIFEM, and UN Action in June 2010.

According to Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: An Analytical Inventory of Peacekeeping Practice, uniformed peacekeepers have the potential to help fight sexual violence and exert a positive impact on the lives of women and girls and, by extension, civilian communities.

The military component of peacekeeping operations may play an important role not only in protecting women from the violence itself, “but also supporting individual social and economic recovery afterwards,” wrote Department of Peacekeeping Operations Military Adviser Lieutenant General Chikadibia Obiakor in the preface to the guidelines. “…Protecting civilians from conflict-related sexual violence is not only a military task, but one that also requires the participation of other stakeholders to build a safe and secure environment.”

The guidelines are online at www.unifem.org/materials/

[12] The Security Council, conflict and HIV/AIDS

Security Council resolution 1308, passed in 2000, reaffirmed the importance of a coordinated international response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, given its possible growing impact on social instability and emergency situations and recognized that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is also exacerbated by conditions of violence and instability, which increase the risk of exposure. Among other things, this resolution called for further steps towards providing training for peacekeeping personnel on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Numerous nations have been routinely sending women along with men in gender-mixed contingents of troops and police. South Africa leads, with a record 17 per cent female officers among the roughly 2,100 peacekeepers it has assigned to the United Nations. Nigeria deploys about 350 women among nearly 5,000 peacekeepers.

Women in police or military uniforms send a message to local people that the United Nations not only sees women as equal to men in carrying out missions but also understands that female police and troops can be powerful models. Women who have survived assaults may also be more likely to report incidents to women officers. In Liberia, Gna Gudjonsdottir, a police officer from Iceland who is a United Nations adviser to the Liberian National Police, said that when she goes out jogging in Monrovia in the morning, she receives big welcoming smiles from women on the street.

Women who have survived assaults may be more likely to report incidents to
women officers.

In the years during which resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888 and 1889 have entered the United Nations arena, positive steps have also been taken by women acting on their own, in solidarity movements. Perhaps this is best exemplified by the determined women of Liberia who defied extreme dangers and massed in protests to force President Charles Taylor and warlords into a peace agreement in 2003. Or the women of Bosnia and Herzegovina who mustered the courage in recent years to identify themselves, in order to challenge the social stigma thousands still carry from the Balkan wars of the 1990s and to force government recognition of their continuing suffering.

In United Nations missions, the institutionalizing of gender-based programmes is proceeding. In Timor-Leste, the country’s Police Development Programme, UNFPA, the United Nations Police—the largest part of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT)—and representatives from other United Nations agencies, have written a manual for the Timorese National Police on investigating cases of gender-based violence and conducted training sessions for local police officers drawn from a society that traditionally considered domestic abuse a family matter to be settled in the home. This perception was underlined when, in 2009, UNIFEM, the United Nations Development Fund for Women, published studies it had commissioned that found that many women in Timor-Leste considered violence a normal part of family life.

In May 2010 the Timorese national Parliament passed the Law Against Domestic Violence that had been through various drafting stages since 2003. The government had support from UNFPA, UNIFEM and UNMIT in framing the law and informing legislators about its aims and importance. The law had earlier been shelved because, while it defined domestic violence, it had no power to criminalize it. That obstacle was removed by the passage in 2009 of a penal code that clarified which offenses would be considered crimes of domestic violence and made these crimes “public,” so their prosecution no longer depended on whether a complaint had been filed.

A United Nations Police officer (left, with children) and an officer from the Vulnerable Persons Unit of the Polícia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL) make a house call.
©UN Photo/Martine Perrett

During public consultations that preceded a vote on the domestic violence law, there were those who argued that such legislation was contrary to Timorese culture and the sanctity of the family. Rita Reddy, the Senior Gender Adviser to the United Nations Police in Timor-Leste, said that many Timorese confronted traditional practices, such as the age-old system of dowry–barlake–that is often at the root of domestic disputes. “A woman can face violent reprimand if she is perceived not to deliver on her [dowry] price,” said Reddy, a Malaysian with worldwide experience in human rights and gender issues.

With help from the United Nations Police, “vulnerable persons units” have been set up by the Timorese police. “There is one in every district police headquarters,” Reddy said. “They deal with all cases of women and children.” As part of the project, UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, has developed child-friendly interview rooms. “Because the concept of the vulnerable persons units is a foreign one, once we leave we don’t want it to collapse,” said Reddy. “We want it to have a sustainable future and be recognized as part of policing.” The worry that, when United Nations peacekeepers and police trainers leave, human rights and gender-sensitive training will not be a priority is voiced by some Timorese non-governmental organizations. A similar concern is heard in Liberia, where a large peacekeeping mission and United Nations humanitarian and development agencies, such as UNFPA, are working.

In Dili, Reddy said that not only local police need training in gender-related issues. She said that in UNPOL itself, there were police officers from 45 countries and only some of them come with some background on sexual and gender-based violence. “And so the training programme on the domestic violence law is also for UNPOL officers,” Reddy said. Seven per cent of the United Nations Police in Timor-Leste are women. “There have been several directives from Department of Peacekeeping Operations headquarters, recommendations that there should be gender balance within the police,” Reddy said, adding that it is still difficult, however, to get women to join.

Despite the great need in Timor-Leste for women in police uniforms to be seen as a “normal” part of policing and to serve as role models for Timorese women, Reddy said that there are, perhaps surprisingly, hurdles to overcome in dealing with female United Nations police officers from developed countries who do not want to be seen doing “women’s work.” “There have been some from Western-oriented countries where they…feel that being assigned to the victim-protection units is like babysitting women and children, and they do not want to do that. They like to do the jobs that the men do.”

On the Timorese side, the National Police force now has nearly 20 per cent female officers, higher than the global average. “But they are not in top positions in Timor,” Reddy said. “All are low in rank; only one at inspector level.”

Women police officers at the Salem Police Station in Monrovia, Liberia, check crime statistics.  ©VII Photo/Marcus Bleasdale

In Liberia, Bennetta Holder Warner, head of the women and children protection section of the Liberian National Police, has a cramped, dark, airless office made unbearably hot by power cuts that shut down the air conditioner and lighting. Her office adjoins another where men are brought in for questioning, and loud scuffles outside her door interrupt conversation. “This is not a child-friendly building,” she said. “Victims have to pass by people in handcuffs, and they are afraid.” There is no juvenile cell where young people, most still in their teens, are detained.

Nevertheless, Warner said, her five-year-old unit that deals extensively with victimized children, set up with help from UNICEF after the end of an extremely brutal civil war, has made good progress. In-service training for police around the country has helped create a better sense of awareness and understanding of crimes against women and children, she said. Special police units to deal with such crimes and their victims in every region of Liberia are now able to handle a range of responses: arrests, counselling of survivors, the provision of safe houses—including one for boys—and assurance of medical care. A national task force has taken on a campaign against child trafficking, and efforts are made to improve investigation procedures nationwide. In the past there had often been no follow-up by a survivor or family member after an initial arrest. “More people are coming in now to file a case,” Warner said.

Across Africa, reports are emerging of how increasing the number of women in United Nations police ranks, as well as national police forces, goes on paying dividends long after a crisis is over. Assistant Inspector-General Kadi Facondo, Sierra Leone’s highest-ranking female police officer, learned about gender-sensitive policing from United Nations Police assigned to her country in the wake of its civil war. With United Nations assistance, Sierra Leone then established its own family support units to encourage survivors of rape, domestic violence and other crimes to come forward for help.

Now serving in a joint United Nations–African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Facondo told a United Nations news service that she would like to see more gender-sensitive policing there also. Though the territory is large, she said, gender officers should be on call wherever there is access to displaced people. She said that as in Sierra Leone and Liberia, where she has also served, women in Darfur affected by sexual and gender-based violence “feel comfortable talking with UNPOL female officers.”

[13] Sexual violence in emergencies

During the early stages of an emergency—when communities are first disrupted, populations are moving, and systems for protection are not fully in place—most reported incidents of gender-based violence are sexual violence involving female survivors/victims and male perpetrators. Sexual violence is the most immediate and dangerous type of gender-based violence occurring in acute emergencies. Later—in a more stabilised phase and during rehabilitation and recovery—other forms of gender-based violence occur or are reported with increasing frequency. These include, among others, harmful traditional practices (female genital mutilation, forced early marriage and honour killings) and domestic violence.

Although intervention in the early stages of an emergency should focus on sexual violence, other forms of gender-based violence should not necessarily be ignored. For example, the severity and incidence of domestic violence often increases in the aftermath of natural disasters and therefore may require immediate intervention from humanitarian actors.

Source: Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings, United Nations Inter-Agency Standing Committee

[14] HIV/AIDS in emergencies and crises

The very conditions that define a complex emergency—conflict, social instability, poverty and powerlessness—are also the conditions that favour the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.

During a crisis, the effects of poverty, powerlessness and social instability are intensified, increasing people’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. As the emergency and the epidemic simultaneously progress, fragmentation of families and communities occurs, threatening stable relationships. The social norms regulating behaviour are often weakened. In such circumstances, women and children are at increased risk of violence, and can be forced into having sex to gain access to basic needs such as food, water or even security. Displacement may bring populations, each with different HIV/AIDS prevalence levels, into contact. This is especially true in the case of populations migrating to urban areas to escape conflict or disaster in the rural areas.

During the acute phase of an emergency, the absence or inadequacy of services facilitates HIV/AIDS transmission through lack of universal precautions and unavailability of condoms. In war situations, there is evidence of increased risk of transmission of HIV/AIDS through transfusion of contaminated blood.

The presence of military forces, peacekeepers, or other armed groups is another factor contributing to increased transmission of HIV/AIDS. These groups need to be integrated in all HIV prevention activities.

Recent humanitarian crises reveal a complex interaction between the HIV/AIDS epidemic, food insecurity and weakened governance. The interplay of these forces must be borne in mind when responding to emergencies.

There is an urgent need to incorporate the HIV/AIDS response into an overall response to an emergency. If not addressed, the impacts of HIV/AIDS will persist and expand beyond the crisis event itself, influencing the outcome of the response and shaping future prospects for rehabilitation and recovery.

Source: Guidelines for HIV/AIDS Interventions in Emergency Settings, United Nations Inter-Agency Standing Committee.

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