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“Rape Is Never Inevitable”

March 13, 2010

Posted on 11 March 2010 by admin Terraviva IPS Beijing+5

Margot Wallström, special representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, says that women’s security is the best measure of national security. UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Marguerite A. Suozzi

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 11 (IPS/TerraViva) There is little disagreement among United Nations member states that involving women in peace processes is crucial to their success.

But despite of this consensus, manifested in the unanimous support of Security Council Resolution 1325, passed in October 2000 and which addresses the impact of war on women, challenges remain for the international community to debunk many prevailing attitudes about gender, and to achieve gender parity in conflict prevention, resolution, and peacekeeping efforts.

In January, the gender statistics of the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) indicated that women constitute just over three percent of peacekeeping personnel in its 19 missions, employing nearly 97,000 male military and police personnel, versus less than 3,000 female personnel.

In Nepal, women have been largely left out of peace negotiations since 2006, according to Bandana Rana, the regional coordinator of the South Asian campaign for gender equality and the executive president of Sati Organisation, an NGO working on violence against women and children in Nepal.

After Nepal’s 13-year civil war, where women constituted approximately one-third of the armed rebel army, it was not until the last stage of drafting Nepal’s new constitution that four women were included in the drafting committee.

“All the peace agreements and peace negotiations and the talks that took place between different political parties did not see women’s participation at all,” Rana said.

“Women were more or less perceived as passive victims of war, rather than active agents of change, where they had actually gathered and got a lot of knowledge and expertise and experience,” she said, “That was not recognised.”

At the most rudimentary level, sustained threats to women’s dignity and security hinder their active participation in the peace process.

In her first presentation as Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström cited the Democratic Republic of Congo as the epicentre of the crisis of sexual violence against women.

”My message to the guardians of global public opinion in the global peace and security sphere: rape is never inevitable, it’s a crime of concern to the international community. And the U.N. estimates that over 200,000 women have been raped during 12 years of war in the DRC,” she said.

“In my view, women’s security is the best measure of national security,” said Wallström.

“Strategies to protect women, are also strategies to protect women’s participation. If women are unable to safely access fields, or go to the well, marketplaces, or polling booths, if girl’s are unable to safely get to school, then social-economic recovery will be stalled.”

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