war and peace
around the world experience conflict differently. While
conflict situation is unique, with particular historical,
social and cultural factors, many of the phenomena and
common. The issue briefs provided here cover some of the
key cross cutting issues that women face before, during
and after violent conflict.
impunity that prevails for widespread crimes against women
in war must be redressed. Accountability means being answerable
to women for crimes committed against them and punishing
those responsible. The failure throughout history to deal
with crimes committed against women in war has only recently
begun to be addressed. The jurisprudence of the International
Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in
1993 and of the Rwandan Tribunal (ICTR) have begun to
treat crimes against women as war crimes and crimes against
humanity. The newly established International Criminal
Court (ICC) is one of the most significant examples of
gender mainstreaming in an international treaty. From
the ICC to regional, national and traditional justice
systems, gender must be taken into account and women must
have full access to the rule of law.
few exceptions, perpetrators of violence against women
in war are rarely held accountable for their acts, nor
are women granted redress. Many state agencies are themselves
guilty of gender bias and discriminatory practices.
women opt not to report cases of violence to authorities
*The lack of adequate legal mechanism;
*Fear of being ostracized and shamed by communities that
tend to blame victims of violence for the abuses they
*Fear of reprisal;
*The general climate of indifference towards violence
against women in the society;
*The tacit acceptance of sexual abuses as an unavoidable
part of war;
*Amnesty granted to perpetrators as a part of peace agreement.
that prevent women from seeking justice include the lack
of knowledge about their rights and legal process, financial
difficulty to travel to a trial or the lack of ability
to take time off from work or to leave their families.
Also, they may be intimidated or disillusioned by the
justice system, which may have collapsed or become corrupted
before, during or after conflict. Support services and
legal aid are rarely provided to women, and gender bias
within the judicial process prevents women from receiving
fair treatment as witnesses, as complainants and in investigations.
of women's view in judicial processes is another reason
that crimes against women are prone to be unrecorded and
un-addressed. Women been rarely consulted about the form,
scope and modalities for seeking accountability. No more
than three women have served at any one time among the
14 permanent judges of the International Criminal Tribunals
for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and for Rwanda (ICTR).
In this light, the election of seven female judges among
18 judges for the ICC is a critical achievement.
weakens the foundation of the post-conflict societies
and prolongs instability and injustice and continues to
expose women to the threat of violence. Accountability
on the part of states and societies for crimes against
women is not just about punishing perpetrators but about
establishing the rule of law and a just social and political
order where such violence is illegitimated and prevented.
are psychologically and economically affected by the injustice
of the separation of families as well as "disappearance"
of family members as a result of conflicts. The Additional
Protocol I of 1977 expressly recognizes the right of families
to know the fate of their relatives (Article 32 and 33).
reconstruction phase, where elections are held and the
government systems, institutions and legislations are
reformed, is a critical opportunity to enhance women's
rights in the society. Greater attention should be paid
to enshrine gender equality and women's rights in the
new constitution and legislation.