Where are all the women? – Jane Townsley

Across the World there continue to be lost opportunities to build security and justice in post conflict environments by the marginalisation of women. It doesn’t make sense not to include those who can represent the needs and expectations of half the population. In the words of US Secretary of State John Kerry “no team can possibly win leaving half of the team on the bench” (Kerry, 2014 n.p.).

Women play a key role in our societies, they know what is happening within local communities and in many cases are able to influence others, including within traditional societies, where mothers have an important role to play in guiding the future path of their children. So when post conflict reform programs are being designed women need to be included in that process and in their subsequent delivery. There is evidence that when security actors take into account the differing needs of both men and women the likelihood of achieving their objectives is increased (Whiteman & O’Neill, 2012).

Focusing in particular on police reform the lack of involvement of women in certain environments particularly post conflict is shameful. According to Abbas (2016) the expansion of women’s role in law enforcement as well as the broader criminal justice system ‘Is the key necessary element to open the doors of peace and harmony around the globe. It is especially so in conflict zones and regions facing socioeconomic turbulence and instability”.

Gender responsive policing is about ensuring the needs of men and women, boys and girls are taken into account equally when delivering policing services as well as the needs of those men and women working within the police. In most cases the creation of a fully gender responsive police service within a post conflict environment requires not only increasing the number of women but also ensuring all officers are professionally trained and equipped to provide the best services to the communities they are there to protect. This does not mean that women should be restricted to non operational back office roles or that they alone should deal with women and children victims. Women officers can make a valuable contribution to operational roles, just their presence in hostile situations can defuse tensions. It is essential that male officers too have an awareness of the needs and expectations of women within society if trust and confidence is to be built for sustainable security and justice.  As stated by Bastick (2008:5) ”SSR efforts should, however not treat young men primarily as a security risk and women and girls primarily as victims”.

The status of women in law enforcement and governance is reflective of the status of women in communities which, in turn, determines a government’s ability to respond effectively to conflict (Bird, Townsley, 2015). Increasing access to justice for victims of gender based violence, something that is often prolific following conflict and disproportionately effects women and girls, is another benefit of gender responsive policing. In post-conflict societies it is far more likely that female victims would be dealt with by male officers, probably at police stations where there are no victim friendly facilities. More women officers can provide victims with the courage to take their first steps into the justice system however they need relevant training. For example, just staffing violence against women units with women officers who have had no specific training will do nothing to increase trust and confidence. Equally, professionally trained male officers can provide the necessary support and understanding required.

Where the numbers of women have been increased in policing within post-conflict environments they often are subject to discriminatory practices. In Pakistan, female officers make up less than 1% of police numbers and lack basic equipment, they are also discriminated against when it comes to nominations for training (Peters, Chughtai, 2014). In Afghanistan, where there is only 1 female officer for every 10,000 women (OXFAM, 2013) policewomen are often side lined into demeaning roles, abused and even killed (IAWP, 2014) “If you cannot safeguard women in the police, how can you possibly improve the situation for women in the community?” (IAWP, 2014: 1).

There is a disproportionate impact from conflict on women and girls when it comes to security and justice, yet they continue to be excluded from many post-conflict reform programs. Despite many advocates that the inclusion of women is essential for lasting peace, progress continues to be slow. Within security reform recruiting more women to the police alone will not solve the problem, policies and procedures need revising to create a fully inclusive police service. In order to achieve ‘real’ change, gender mainstreaming need to be replicated across the entire criminal justice system.

Postscript:

Why hasn’t effective action been taken to address the issues outlined above? A number of reasons exist but the overriding one is a lack of accountability. Who can hold governments to account? In post-conflict settings there is often at the start of reform and rebuilding processes institutions and government structures are broken if not totally collapsed. International actors including UN Peacekeepers can become involved but even then where does the true accountability lie? The only United Nations body with any ‘authority’ is the security council yet still atrocities persist across the globe, sometimes right under the noses of UN Peacekeepers such as in Rwanda and Bosnia.

The UNSC Resolution 1325 (2000) is specific about the role women should play in peacekeeping and peace building yet where is the accountability when so many member states still do not have National Action Plans 16 years after 1325 was accepted? Still only 60 member states have produced their plans (Institute for Inclusive Security, 2016n.p.). The achievement of the Millennium Development Goals did not succeed by 2015, again who holds governments to account? We now have the Sustainable Development Goals #16 ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’ (UN, 2016) being the most relevant to this paper. How will they be monitored and governments held to account? The UN Security Council was established following the end of WWII yet the World is a different place now and perhaps the make up of the permanent members of the security council is overdue a review something even Kofi Annan recognised whilst he was the UN Secretary General (Annan, 2013:142) as he stated, “For the Security Council to enjoy legitimacy in the twenty-first century, it needs to be not only effective but also representative” He went on to state, “The problem will not be that such countries will actively oppose the Security Council. It’s that they will ignore it” (Annan, 2013: 142).

References

Abbas, H. (2016) ‘Women Fighting for Peace: Lessons for Today’s Conflicts’ Committee on Foreign Affairs United States House of Representatives, Washington D.C.: USA, 22nd March 2016.

Annan, K. (2013) Interventions: A Life in War and Peace, New York: Penguin.

Bastick, M. (2008) Integrating Gender in Post-Conflict Security Sector Reform Policy Paper 29, Geneva: Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).

Bird, E. and Townsley, J. (2015) ‘Background’ Gender Agenda International, Sheffield: Flinch Design.

IAWP (International Association of Women Police) (2014) ‘Police Women in Afghanistan’ IAWP Campaign Briefing Paper, http://www.iawp.org/campaigns/Afghanistan/IAWPAfghanistanCampaign.pdf  (accessed 4th April 2016).

Institute for Inclusive Security (2016) National Action Plan Resource Centre http://actionplans.inclusivesecurity.org (accessed 4th Aril 2016).

Kerry, J. (2014) ‘Closing Remarks’ at Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, London: Excel Centre, London, UK, 13th June 2014.

OXFAM (2013) Women and the Afghan Police – Why a law enforcement agency that respects and protects females is crucial for progress, OXFAM Briefing Paper 173 http://www.oxfam.org/en/policy/women-afghan-police (accessed 4th April 2016).

Peters, A. and Chughtai, H. (2014) ‘Why Pakistan Needs a Few More Good Women’ Foreign Policy http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/07/29/why-pakistan-needs-a-few-more-good-women/ (accessed 4th April 2016).

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) S/Res/1325 (2000), New York: United Nations.

United Nations (2016) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org (accessed 4th April 2016).

Whiteman, T. and O’Neill, J. (2012) Attention to Gender Increases Security in Operations: Examples from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Washington D.C.: The Institute for Inclusive Security.

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