6: Sexualized violence as a weapon
Sexualized violence is a form of gender-based violence . Sexualized violence in war involves more than rape ; it can also be about forced prostitution and forced pregnancy. When sexual violence is used militarily – as a weapon of war – it means that women and men are attacked for destroying society and terrorizing the population into submission or flight. The use of violence has then become a means of achieving political goals. Sexualized violence in war affects young girls and women disproportionately and is often linked to discrimination and inequality in society.
During the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Serbian leaders, led by Slobodan Milosevic, used sexual violence as a war strategy for the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims. Then the abuse did not become an attack on women as individuals, but as representatives of their ethnic group and culture. Among other things, Muslim women were forced to give birth to children of Serbian fathers as a method of spreading ethnic dominance.
Rape during war has also been a way of demonstrating victory over and humiliation of opponents. According to HOMEAGERLY.COM, a well-known case was when Soviet soldiers occupied Berlin in the last days of World War II and raped about 100,000 German women in a mixture of victory intoxication and revenge for German atrocities earlier in the war.
However, there are many examples of sexual violence not having to be part of a clear war strategy such as the Serbian warfare against Bosnian Muslims. The last decade’s wars in a number of African countries – among them Sierra Leone, Liberia and Congo – have shown that sexual violence can take place on a massive scale without it being easy to see a clear war strategy. However, the effects are often the same – war traumas, reconciliation difficulties and an explosive increase in HIV / AIDS.
Women’s human rights are today widely accepted on the international agenda. Most recently in June 2008, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1820, in which sexual violence is seen on an equal footing with other weapons in war and as a weapon that threatens humanity and is at times part of genocide. This resolution was a follow-up to the very important Resolution 1325 of the Security Council, on women, peace and security. It came in 2000 to ensure gender balance in peace operations and to focus on the situation of women in war.
At the same time, it is often far from words to action in the international community. Words are not always followed up in practice. Even in peacetime, it has proved difficult to protect women from sexual abuse. The knowledge about the problem is also deficient precisely because it has been so taboo and neglected. Practical solutions have therefore been in short supply.
However, the international community agrees that increasing the status of women is part of the solution to many problems, including: the prevalence of sexual violence. Better access to education and work for women will then be important. Through increased status, it will be more difficult for potential abusers to view women as objects or as a commodity belonging to their men.
When women become more independent through education and their own income, they also have a broader network and reach out after abuse. In the international community, the debate about gender has often been discussed by women. But it is also very important that men become aware that violence against women is something that affects both parties – both women and men. It is not a “women’s problem” alone.
7: Women and conflict resolution
A common distinction in international politics is between so-called hard politics and soft politics . As I said, men throughout history have dominated in forums where political and military decisions are made in conflict and thus also in peace negotiations. Lack of knowledge about women’s role in war and conflict has long been associated with a lack of understanding of women’s contributions to conflict resolution. The distinction has also led to hard politics being seen as serious, while so-called softer themes have been ignored.
From the 1990s, these deficiencies are gradually being remedied. In addition, many assume that women are by nature more peaceful and willing to compromise than men and thus better suited to negotiate peaceful solutions. Today’s knowledge emphasizes that it is a mixture of biology and constructed societal roles.
In the last ten years, there has been a growing awareness of the need to involve women in local and national negotiations. This has been shown to increase the chances of a more long-term solution and broader support in the population. When women are not allowed to participate in peace negotiations, half of the population falls away from rebuilding the country. Precisely because sexualized violence is directed at women as a weapon to break down a social structure, it may be women who can rebuild society.
Resolution 1325 is a good example of increased focus on the role of women in conflict resolution. Today’s goal is no longer just to protect women, but also to integrate women’s participation in decision – making nationally, regionally and internationally. Another key component is to integrate gender perspectives into all UN peacekeeping operations, as security needs and resources vary by gender. For example, in today’s conflicts, girls and women are responsible for fetching water, gathering food and going to local markets. On this stretch, women often fall victim to sexual abuse. In the same way, boys and men are more often victims of forced recruitment to militia groups. Although many of the security needs are the same, there will always be some needs that vary depending on gender.
In international peace operations, there is currently a requirement to include a gender perspective in all parts of an operation. This means that women must also participate on an equal footing with men in everything from being peacekeeping soldiers to planning economic reconstruction of war-torn countries. In many cases, it has been shown that women in peacekeeping forces can more easily reach out to other women who are victims of abuse and thus report and try to protect people from new abuses.
To strengthen women’s economic position – i.a. by microloans – seems to benefit larger parts of a war-torn community. Prioritizing women and typical women’s arenas seems to give more credit to children’s health and education. In recent peace operations, women are therefore more consciously included in a war – torn country’s future economy. In addition, the inclusion of women in peace negotiations is in line with democratic values and human rights. Peace is about more than the absence of war. Peace and peacebuilding are also about creating a just society. Without women’s participation in peace processes, it is not possible to create a just society.
Unfortunately, today there is too little automaticity in this resolution since gender awareness is relatively recently included in all UN operations. Because even though awareness is written down in resolutions, words do not automatically turn into action. How the UN, in collaboration with other parties, will in practice be able to carry out both civilian and military operations with a conscious gender focus, is currently unclear. But the steps that have been taken are important and will most likely become increasingly important in the years ahead in the search for lasting peace solutions.