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Will Integrating Women into Armed Groups Prevent Rape?

Courtesy of M.7/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 24 January 2017.

In September, US Senator Barbara Boxer introduced legislation calling for the active recruitment of women into global military and police forces because, as she notes, “when women are deployed… there are fewer allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation.” This follows a string of proposals from government officials and international organizations – as well as findings from academics – suggesting that integrating women into armed groups mitigates conflict-related sexual violence. For example, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 explicitly calls for gender mainstreaming in armed institutions as a solution for sexual abuse and violence against women. Some academic research supports this idea, concluding that groups may commit fewer rapes when they have high proportions of female combatants.

This argument’s core logic, however, makes a series of flawed assumptions about gender and sexual violence. First, and perhaps most significantly, it assumes that female combatants are innately less violent than their male counterparts – it suggests women’s passivity should tame otherwise violent groups. Yet women’s wartime brutality is well documented and, in many cases, female combatants also commit rape. Indeed, sexual violence persists in many groups despite female integration: high rates of ‘blue on blue’ assault in the US military and testimony from female rebels in Nepal, Colombia, and other conflicts illustrate that many female-inclusive groups abuse their own cadre in addition to civilians.

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When Peacekeepers Do Damage: Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Tears

Courtesy of Matt Rinne/Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This article was originally published by the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) on 4 January 2017.

Deploying more female soldiers in peacekeeping missions will not in itself prevent sexual exploitation and abuse. Strengthening gender training and investigative capacities are small, yet feasible steps forward.


Recommendations

  • The UN and troop-contributing countries (TCCs) should enhance cooperation between the UN conduct and discipline teams and the national investigation teams.
  • The UN and TCCs should strengthen in-mission investigative capacities to ensure the availability of reliable evidence and local witnesses.
  • The UN should put pressure on TCCs to hold their defence leadership accountable for effective command and control enforcement.
  • There should be a focus on continuous gender training in all units, both prior to and during deployment.

According to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (UNSCR 1325), increasing the number of female peacekeepers will reduce sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in peace operations. However, this does not seem to be the case in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where UN peacekeepers from South Africa have been more involved in SEA than peacekeepers from other nations, even though the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has the highest number of female peacekeepers deployed in the DRC. In the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), 243 of the 1351 SANDF troops deployed (18%) are women. However, changing a military culture that tacitly accepts SEA as a part of everyday life in the camps requires more profound measures than simply deploying more women.

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Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN Peacekeepers: Zero Tolerance is a Political and Medical Responsibility

Nothing That Belongs to Us

Courtesy Dee Ashley/Flickr

In recent years, cases of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) of vulnerable individuals by UN peacekeepers and police have been surfacing with alarming regularity. The extent of the crisis was revealed by Human Rights Watch, which documented that between December 2013 and June 2014 children residing near the M’Poko Internationally Displaced Person Camps in Bagui, Central African Republic (CAR), reported that they had been abused or had witnessed other children being abused by French Sangaris Forces, who used food or money as incentives. After demands that the UN investigate these allegations, an Independent Review on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by International Peacekeeping Forces in the Central African Republic was established. Its report, published in December 2015, found that:

Some of the children described witnessing the rape of other child victims (who were not interviewed by the HRO [Human Rights Officer]); others indicated that it was known that they could approach certain Sangaris soldiers for food, but would be compelled to submit to sexual abuse in exchange. In several cases soldiers reportedly acknowledged or coordinated with each other, for example by bringing a child onto the base, past guards, where civilians were not authorized to be, or by calling out to children and instructing them to approach.

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Interview – J. Ann Tickner

Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama with the 2012 IWOC Award Winners, Courtesy US Department of State/WikimediaCommons

This interview was originally published by E-International Relations on 6 March 2016.

J. Ann Tickner is Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the American University. She is also a Professor Emerita at the University of Southern California where she taught for fifteen years before coming to American University. Her principle areas of teaching and research include international theory, peace and security, and feminist approaches to international relations. She served as President of the International Studies Association from 2006-2007. Her books include, A Feminist Voyage Through International Relations (Oxford University Press, 2014), Gendering World Politics: Issues and Approaches in the Post-Cold War Era (Columbia University Press, 2001), Gender in International Relations: Feminist Perspectives on Achieving International Security (Columbia University Press, 1992), and Self-Reliance Versus Power Politics: American and Indian Experiences in Building Nation-States (Columbia University Press, 1987).

Where do you see the most exciting research and debates happening in your field?

I think the most exciting research is being done at the margins by scholars who are pushing the disciplinary boundaries of what we think of as IR into areas such as historical sociology, post-colonialism, race and gender. Although the mainstream US discipline is still quite hegemonic, I believe this hegemony is somewhat on the decline and there is more space for critical perspectives.

There are good revisionist histories that tell non-conventional stories about the origins of the discipline. And there is a great deal of exciting critical work being done by scholars in other parts of the world that attempts to construct an IR that reaches beyond geographical and disciplinary boundaries. The Worlding Beyond the West series edited by Ole Waever and Arlene Tickner and by Tickner and David Blaney is a good example. Other examples are recent work on race, empire and gender. It is quite astonishing how IR has erased imperialism and the anti-colonial struggles of the twentieth century from its historical memory. These are issues that are fueling so many of today’s conflicts.

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The Question of Women’s Roles in Conflict

Female Afghan National Police officers, courtesy NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/flickr

This article was originally published by openDemocracy on 15 February 2016.

The U.S. Department of Defense has paid scant attention to the roles local women play in conflicts, either as aggressors, crucial fighting support, or powerful peace builders – to the detriment of global security.

Now that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has opened all military occupations to women in order to take advantage of the skills and perspectives they have to offer, perhaps this move will help it to overcome a bias that continues to handicap its operations: its lack of recognition of the critical contributions of local women in conflict areas. To date, multiple opportunities to defeat insurgents, stabilize communities and promote peace in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and many other countries have been squandered because of the military’s almost exclusive focus on the male half of populations.

As a result of this persistent exclusion in zones of conflict, commanders are effectively precluding themselves from taking advantage of all opportunities to defeat armed groups, mitigate the influence of malign forces, and facilitate peace and stability. Paradoxically, this obliviousness also directly contradicts military leaders’ contemporary emphasis on obtaining in-depth “situational awareness” in order to effectively deal with conflict.

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