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.
Courtesy Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr
This article was originally published by openDemocracy on 15 August 2016.
As the testimonies of survivors of sexual violence in Sri Lanka’s long war enter the public domain and the government designs transitional justice mechanisms, is an end to impunity in sight?
The Sri Lankan government is currently designing transitional justice mechanisms to address human rights abuses connected to the three decade long war which ended in May 2009. But a key question is whether victims of sexual violence and rape committed in the context of the war will come forward and use these mechanisms?
The silence around sexual violence has long posed a challenge to determining its nature, scale and magnitude in the context of Sri Lanka’s long war. On the one hand, this is due to the pervasive culture of shame, which deters women from speaking out. Twenty-five years ago, in Broken Palmyrah Rajini Thiranagama noted that the “loss of virginity in a young girl, even if against her will, meant that she could not aspire to marriage in our society and, if already married, there is a good chance that she will be abandoned”.
The view of rape victims as “spoilt goods” has always been one of the most significant causes of under-reporting. Survivors and their families are however silenced not only by the shame of rape, but also by fear. Fear of reprisal by perpetrators or of further violence from the very institutions meant to protect them. That too remains unchanged.
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.
Foreign Secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie chairing the “End Sexual Violence in Conflict” Global Summit in London. Image: Flickr.
This article was originally published June 17, 2014 by The Disorder of Things.
The attention lavished on sexual violence in conflict [three weeks ago] was in many ways unprecedented. As well as convening the largest ever gathering of officials, NGOs and other experts for the Global Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, co-chairs William Hague (Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) and Angelina Jolie (Special Envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees) also generated very many pages – both print and digital – of commentary.
In some myopic quarters, that achievement was in itself a distraction from the really important politics of blossoming conflict in Iraq. Such views should remind us that there are still those who insist on seeing gender violence as marginal to international peace and security. Worthy, yes, “no doubt important”, obviously a cause for concern , and so on, but naturally not the real deal. » More
Survivors of sexual assault who have babies resulting from the violence stay in a shelter in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Kate Holt/IRIN.
Rape and other acts of serious sexual violence in armed conflict are to be recognised as grave breaches of the Geneva Convention as well as war crimes, according to an announcement by British Foreign Secretary, William Hague and UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie, at a G8 meeting on April 11th 2013.
The new Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict agreed by ministers, elevates the most under reported and least prosecuted aspect of war to a new status, on a par with wilful killing and torture, and provides a framework for investigating and prosecuting offenders. The move is welcome news to campaigners working to end sexual violence, and it sounds good on paper, but how easy will it be to enforce? » More