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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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Increase, Don’t Decrease, Marine Lethality

US Army female soldier in Iraq, courtesy of Technical Sergeant William Greer, United States Air Force/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 23 March 2016.

On February 2, the Senate Armed Services Committee heard conflicting testimony from the Army and Marines about integrating women into the infantry. The Marine Corps had opposed the change, drawing the ire of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. So he took gender integration a giant step farther, ordering the Marines to abolish their separate male and female boot camps and to replace them with co-ed facilities. Mabus gave the astonished Marine leadership 14 days to present him a plan that included “removing ‘man’ from job titles.”

Mabus had previously antagonized Congress with his ideological agenda. His plan to shift half the fleet to alternative energy sourcing was so costly that Congress moved to prevent it. The 18 weeks of maternity leave he installed, much more generous than corporations, was rolled back by the secretary of defense. But targeting boot camp is more than ideological overreach. It will do grave harm to America’s battlefield ferocity.

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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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Book Review: Waging Gendered Wars

Image: TheKillerAngel/Flickr

This article was originally published by USApp – American Politics and Policy, a blog hosted by the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have engendered significant scholarly focus on discourses of war. Consequently, an emerging body of literature is providing critical insights into many facets of war, especially in response to the unprecedented expansion on women’s military participation. » More