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Kamala Sarup: Peace In Women's Terms

Peace In Women's Terms

by Kamala Sarup

Armed conflict takes several forms and women in such situations should play different roles. From the Balkans to Burundi, Sierra Leone to Sri Lanka and Nepal, women are the worst victims of domestic war.

Women are strategic targets due to their role as biological, cultural and social reproducers of their societies and are subject to gender-based violence. We are all aware that many conflicts lead to violence and women and girls are affected by armed conflict in various ways.

Peace and security must be considered in the truest sense of the word: access to education, security and employment to live life because women are often strategic targets in conflict.

Women and girls are facing discrimination in access to health, education, employment, and other areas. They know that they have to deal with development issues, economic issues, conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction. Women and children account for the most number of civilian casualties in war.

The Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing 4 to 15 September, 1995, devoted much attention to peace and women, again linking the advancement of women to the promotion of lasting peace. Instead of asking women to strengthen their efforts, this report recognizes the leading role that women already play in the peace movement.

Representatives of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, an 85-year-old organization that formed in response to World War expressed "Resolution 1325 provided a tool for women that called for gender sensitivity in all UN missions including peacekeeping. It urged the necessity of women to participate equally at all negotiating tables and for the protection of women and girls during armed conflict. The last paragraph of this resolution notes that the Security Council "decides to remain actively seized on the matter."

According to the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Resolution 1325 breaks new ground because it not only recognizes that women have been active in peace-building and conflict prevention; it also recognizes women's right to participate—as decision-makers at all levels—in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and peace-building processes. Further, it calls for all participants in peacekeeping operations and peace negotiations "to adopt a gender perspective."

Resolution 1325 recognizes that women are disproportionately victimized in wars and calls upon all parties to armed conflict to take special measures to respect women's rights, to protect women from gender-based violence, and to end impunity for crimes of violence against women and girls. It calls for gender training for peace-keepers and others involved in peace operations. And it calls for better representation of women throughout the UN system itself. Security Council Resolution 1325 was passed unanimously on 31 October 2000.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said "A review of peace agreements indicates that issues related to gender equality and positions of women within the post-conflict society are typically excluded from peace agreements. Furthermore, a peace process that fails to include women in agenda-setting, substantive talks and implementation raises questions about the democratic legitimacy of the process and lacks the inclusiveness to generate any sense of ownership among women," he adds. This can undermine the prospects for the durability of the agreement and sustainable peace.

Women's equal participation" in conflict prevention and post- conflict peace building. The number of women participating in formal peace processes remains "very small". Women are conspicuously absent from internationally sponsored peace processes, where negotiating teams are dominated by leaders of warring factions," adds the report. That is no justification for exclusion, Annan says, adding that gender equality is an important social goal in itself and a crucial factor for achieving sustainable peace".

Cock, Jacklyn Sociology Professor at Wits University, Johannesburg, said "When we stand for peace as women, it is not to make a case for our special victimhood, but to represent a different vision of strength. To defend those values, we need not just women's voices against the war, but specifically feminist voices. For feminism allows us to analyze patriarchy, the constellation of values, ideas and beliefs that reinforces male control over women. feminists tend to agree on the fact that gender inequalities exist and need to be eradicated; and on the need to develop theoretical frameworks and political strategies that will emerge from and have resonance for women's lives".

She further argue ""The work of women in peace groups is presupposed, it is invisible, trying, women's work; it's a part of 'our' role; to care for others, to comfort, aid, tend wounds, and feed. The painful realization that the peace movement would to some extent also follow a patriarchal model caused a serious dilemma for feminist-pacifists. We wanted our presence to be visible. We wanted it to be clearly understood that what we were doing was our political choice, a radical criticism of the patriarchal, and a non-violent act of resistance to policies that destroy cities, kill people, and annihilate human relations".

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (General Assembly Resolution 217A), signed 10 December, 1948, reiterates the faith in the equal rights of men and women. Article 3 specifically states that "everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person." Therefore, the equal security of women should have already been ingrained in the UN mindset. Despite, this one mention of gender, human rights dialogues assumed that roles, needs, and concerns of both genders were the same.

By 18 December, 1979, UN member states recognized that women may not be able to participate in issues of peace and security and other important issues due to discrimination. Thus, the General Assembly passed Resolution 34/180 on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This document stated that peace and the welfare of the world require maximum participation of women on equal terms with men in all fields. It calls state parties to eliminate all discrimination against women and ensure that women could represent governments at the international level and within international organizations.

UN Declaration on the elimination of violence Against women, 1993 identified the roots of female subordination in the historical power relations with in society as the major cause of violene against women. It is certain that unless the male supremacy in every sphere of thesociety and the subordinate position of women are changed, we can not end Violence against Women . In a workshop on Media and violence in the UN World Conference in China in 1995, Margaret Gallagher, a well known media activist and practitioner expressed concern that the media were deeply implicated in the apparent social normalization of violence, that is to say in contributing to a culture in which violence of many kinds seems normal, naturl and indeed acceptable. She noted that images of women as submissive or inferior which initially look benign, can become part of continuing images that overtly objectify or sexualize women and from there the outright subjugation and domination of women may fol low. The worst sufferers of media violence are women, children and oppressed communities. Women cannot forget how in May 1999, the Hague Appeal for Peace approved the Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century, which stressed the need to include women from all areas of society at all stages in any peace negotiating process. Furthermore, in the 1920s and 1930s women from different part of the world were united across borders as they worked to promote peace and to empower themselves. Also how U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said to the Security Council, "For generations, women have served as peace educators, both in their families and in their societies. They have proved instrumental in building bridges rather than walls."

The Security Council also passed Resolution 1265 on 17 September, 1999 on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. The General Assembly had passed a Resolution on this issue in 1966, but it took more than 30 years for the issue of gender training to become binding international law through a Security Council Resolution. On 16 December, 1966, member states signed Resolution 2200A on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict.

A recent study by the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women revealed that of the 225 Security Council resolutions adopted in the three years since 1325's passage, only 33 of them even mention the words "women" or "gender" at all. Clearly, there is a yawning chasm between the sentiments expressed by the Security Council ambassadors in their Open Debate statements and the actual routine work of the council and the Secretary-General.

In the past decade, however, women peace activists have insisted that the role gender plays in both the escalation and the de-escalation of conflicts depends on the particular historical, cultural and sociopolitical context as well as on the conceptual framework one utilizes to explore the gendered dimensions of serious political conflicts.

Thus, peace resolution, in women's terms, should include, the outcome should address the underlying problems or issues, rather than just symptoms or surface manifestations of the conflict, it should be jointly determined; and the process should achieve at least some degree of satisfaction for the parties concerned.

>From a women perspective , involves a conflict resolution style that can be easily recognized as compatible with female values and goals. This description of female values in dealing with conflict mirrors the goals of mediation. The mediation adopts the female values of supporting, maintaining, and enhancing communication between the disputants.

Women prefer In the past decade, women, in the field of conflict resolution have been raising similar questions. These questions have prompted numerous attempts to introduce women perspectives to the study and practice of peace resolution.

Maintenance of national security and peace is an important factor for economic growth and development and the empowerment of women. Education to foster a culture of peace that upholds justice and tolerance is essential to attaining lasting peace and should be begun as soon as possible. It should include elements of conflict resolution, mediation, reduction of prejudice and respect for diversity. In addressing arm conflict, an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes should be promoted so that before decisions are taken an analysis is made of the effects on women and men, respectively.

We should remember that a number of countries have taken steps to increase the number of women in their armed forces in recognition of the right of women to participate in their nation's military. The changing role of the military in some countries, and at the international level in particular, is moving towards the prevention of conflict, securing of peace, and the reconstruction of countries after wars and natural disasters.

We can not forget how women and children are particularly affected by the indiscriminate use of anti-personnel land-mines. The ongoing daily violence against women and children, the violence of battering, sexual assault, poverty, lack of opportunity.

We need women's actions, to make these larger connections, to assert that compassion is not weakness and brutality is not strength, to dramatize our support for nurturing and life affirming values. Women organizations should promote peaceful conflict resolution and peace, reconciliation and tolerance through education, training, community actions and youth exchange programmes, in particular for young women. Organizations should consider establishing educational programmes for girls to foster a culture of peace, focusing on conflict resolution by non-violent means and the promotion of tolerance.

All strategies for the conflict prevention and resolution should be forward looking and long-term oriented. Confidence building also requires political and legal measures such as legal and economic provisions for the return of refugees and displaced persons. It can be successful only if the political will for it exists on both sides. Women's perspectives to peace resolution is true nonviolence must be based, first of all, on a secure sense of one's own value as a human being.

Women have argued: " Where we have avoided conflict, we can cultivate assertiveness. Where we have shrunk from our own authority, or invalidated the leadership of other women, we can broaden our paradigms of leaders to include images and visions of strong women. There is, however, a growing understanding of the role of women in conflict resolution and the specific skills and abilities they bring to the decision-making process.

An alternative concept of security must not be based on the concept of national defense and force but ought to be directed to ensure the security of the environment and welfare of the women.


( Kamala Sarup is editor of )

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