20 October, 2010
On the ten year anniversary of United Nations Resolution 1325, a new UN report, “State of World Population 2010,” has just been released by the United Nations Population Fund – UNFPA.
The report specifically covers the topic of rape and gender based violence as a weapon of war. While UN Resolution 1325 stresses the importance of women in the peace making process, asking for the protection of all women who face global war as refugees, as victims of rape and war violence and as victims of landmines left in the shadow of war, the UNFPA report gives detailed outlines of the reasons why women play an important role in to help the world understand the impact of gender and the atrocities of war.
Charting the personal and real impacts on women under global conflict is a central theme of the new world report. “Women rarely wage war, but they too often suffer the worst of its consequences,” says the the UNFPA – United Nations Population Fund.
“Conflict today is less about soldiers engaging in battle with soldiers on the other side of a national border and more about combatants struggling for control within a single country and employing any means to break the will of civilians – women, girls, men and boys – by disempowering them physically, psychologically, economically, and socially.,” continues the UNFPA report.
Gathering the first-hand experience of a woman who, at age 50, was trapped in the 1990s Bosnia Herzegovina conflict, the report outlines the woman’s experience as a Croatian woman trying to hide away, caught between the battling Serbs and Bosniaks. “After a time, we had no running water and I had to go to the cistern,” she explained. “On the way back, I was intercepted by three soldiers. They told me to put down the water and follow them. They tortured me; they did unimaginable things… I begged them to kill me.”
July 2002, saw a triumph in the judicial handling of war crimes against women when the International Criminal Court, enacted the Rome Statute, listing rape, under conditions of war involving any civilian population, as one of the “Crimes against humanity.”
“Rape is not an accident of war, or an incidental adjunct to armed conflict,” says global advocacy group, Amnesty International. “Its widespread use in times of conflict reflects the unique terror it holds for women, the unique power it gives the rapist over his victim, and the unique contempt is displays for its victims.”
Documenting the critical affects of war on women for women in Uganda, and area regions in Liberia, Haiti, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jordan, Timor-Leste and the Occupied Palestinian territory (West Bank), the new UNFPA report follows individual and personal stories of women affected deeply by war.
Many of the women interviewed in the report could not even bring themselves to talk about their ordeal until recently.
“To ensure that women affected by armed conflict are better protected and assisted requires an understanding of the law that affords them protection,” said the International Committee of the Red Cross. International law, refugee law and human rights law together has been created to address the needs of women in wartime, but applying the law to some individual cases can often be a long and difficult process.
Challenges to prevent violence against women under conditions of conflict and war may remain elusive, in spite of ongoing global programs attempting to protect women.
The key is to bring women to the table in both peace efforts and in recovery efforts after war.
“Despite all of the advocacy around women’s leadership, a comprehensive post-conflict gender agenda remains to be fully articulated,” says the UNFPA’s Director of Crisis Prevention and Recovery, Jordan Ryan. “While emphasis is given to issues of representation and sexual violence, far less attention is given to the gender dimensions of land reform, government decentralization and privatization. Supporting women’s meaningful participation in post-crisis peace building requires a three-fold investment: in human capacity, in women’s institutions and in an enabling environment that facilitates their active contributions.”