Do women rights suffer more in violent conflict than men’s

The situation of women affected by armed conflict and political violence. The complexity of the human rights in them. Influence of gender element in the destruction of the family and society as a result of hostilities. Analysis of the Rwandan Genocide.

Рубрика Политология
Вид реферат
Язык английский
Дата добавления 03.09.2015
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Politics of Human Rights

“Do women rights suffer more in violent conflict than men's”

Aichurek Zhunusova

Often international armed conflicts, civil wars and other conflicts are the reason for collapse of government, destruction of civil society and loss of respect to laws and norms. International Human Rights law was designed to protect everyone's dignity and humanity of all. It is a system of international norms designed to protect and promote the human rights of all persons. These rights, which are inherent in all human beings, whatever their nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status, are interrelated, interdependent and indivisible (Masson-Matthee, Toebes and Brus 2013). In order to strengthen the protection of everybody during the armed conflicts laws and norms need to be constantly reviewed and developed, and should be seen as an effort.

There is a clear indication that women suffer various forms of victimizations during political violence and violent conflict especially in the African continent. This is because women have been disproportionately affected by conflict as casualties of violence, internally displaced persons and as refugees. The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 epitomizes various forms of violence women suffer during armed conflict and political violence ranging from sexual abuse to loss of lives. Scholars often provide one sided view of women as victims, particularly of sexual abuse (Kelly 2000, Yuval-Davis 1997). Undoubtedly, the most widely victimization of violence women suffer during armed conflict and political violence is sexual abuse, however, there are various forms of victimizations against women and this paper aims at contributing to a comprehensive understanding of the various forms of violence women suffer during armed conflict and political violence. Women suffer both direct and indirect victimizations during and after violent conflict. In recent times, scholars attention have been drawn to issues such as women's rights abuses during violent conflict (Bunch and Carrillo 1992) and also issues of internally displaced or refugee women as victims of war (Wallace 1993, Benjamin and Fancy 1998). Women's testimonies of their experiences during violent conflict have also been given some form of attention (Turshen and Twagiramariya 1998, Bennett et al. 1995). However, there is still insufficient recognition of women's victimization during violent conflict except by feminist researchers and practitioners and this has serious implications for conflict and development in our societies (Caroline and Fiona 2001).

Violence against women and in conflict harms families impoverishes communities and reinforces other forms of inequality. In addition, women and girls suffer direct violations of their physical integrity, for example through reproductive violations and enforced pregnancy. Most recent asymmetrical conflicts have been full of epidemic rates of sexual and gender-based violence, combined with high levels of gender-based human rights violations. The reality is that sexual violence has often been portrayed as an unfortunate consequence of conflict, resulting in widespread impunity for these crimes and general tolerance of gender based violence in post-conflict societies. It is as a result of these enormous challenges or problems that women face during and after political violence and armed conflict that I chose to write on this topic. I therefore seek to find answers to this research questions:

A. To what extent does violent conflict affect women negatively?

B. Can we conclude that women suffer most in violent conflict than men?

Cockburn distinguishes between conflict and violence, and argues that conflict can be non-violent whereas violent according to him `involves the use of force be it physical or psychological'. (Cockburn1999). Violence has further been explained by Keane to include `an uninvited but intentional or half intentional or act of physically violating the body of a person' (Keane 1996:6). Feminists extend the definition to include `assault on a person's physical and mental integrity' and they define gender-related violence to mean `violence which embodies the power imbalances inherent in patriarchal society' (El Bushra and Piza Lopez 1993:1). From these definitions we can define violent conflict to mean a disagreement between individuals or groups which results in the physical, psychological or mental attack on the body of a person, and in the context of this paper, attack on women during violent conflict with the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 as the case study. Violence can be individual or collective. Collective violence refers to `wars, state violence, riots and some activities associated with organized crime' (Reiss and Roth 1993:2). There is a need to assess collective violence against women during conflict or war with the Rwandan Genocide as the basis of discussion.

Gender differentiations have a significant impact before, during and after every violent conflict. Gender plays role in determining the role men and women play in every conflict situation and how men and women are treated during violent conflict. During violent conflict gendered elements manifests themselves during mobilizations into armed forces, the destruction of everyday life and the brutalization of the body in war (Caroline and Fiona 2001). Though gendered elements play significant roles before, during and after violent conflict, it is imperative to analyze this chapter base on the events during conflict since this paper limits itself to the negative impact of violent conflict on women during violent conflict situation.

`Many versions of masculinity in the world's varied cultures are constituted in the practice of fighting: to be a real man is to be ready to fight and, ultimately, to kill and die' (Caroline and Fiona 2001:20). The culture of masculinity has also transcended into the mobilization of military forces during violent conflict. Men dominate as fighting personnel of national militaries and armed gangs of warlords and rebel groups. Although women play role in the mobilization process during, they are always dominated by men. Women, as Yuval-Davis noted women are chosen to enter into the national armies, in some countries like Israel, they are kept out of the combat zone (Yuval-Davis1985) while in some others women bear arms, by their own demands or, as in Libya, through official concept of `modernization' (Graeff-Wassinck 1994). More so `armed forces have, and have probably always had, women nurses, provisioners and camp followers' (Caroline and Fiona 2001:20). Since men as a sex dominates as military, women by inference dominates as civilians. Today 90 per cent of war casualties are civilians. The dominance of men and the differences in role between men and women in the mobilization process demonstrate the gender dynamics during armed conflict.

The concept of gender-targeted violence was formulated to encourage recognition of the fact that such crimes serve as instruments of war, and are not merely a by-product of armed conflict. Gender-targeted crimes include rape, mutilation of reproductive capabilities, and other forms of sexual violence (Buss 2009). Gender-targeted crimes, especially rape, is a war economy, which is the process of producing and allocating weapons to inflict violence in the most efficient way (Welser, Maria 1993). Rape allows ethnic cleansing to be carried out more effectively and efficiently. With this ideology, women became more than prizes and became the main target (Munkler 2005).

The impacts of armed conflict are often viewed as inevitable outcomes of war. However, forced displacement and gender-based violence (GBV) are not unavoidable consequences but deliberate weapons of war that destroys families and communities. Incidences against women of rape and forced pregnancy, forced sex work and sexual slavery occur more frequently in the midst of armed conflict than in pre- or non-conflict periods. Even more alarmingly, some of the perpetrators are `peacekeepers', police or occupying forces, as was the case in Bosnia. Men are undeniably the primary perpetrators of violence, but may themselves be victims of GBV, such as rape, torture or imprisonment, if they resist violence or conscription. It is an undeniable fact that men are sometimes victims of these abuses; however, the main focus of this paper is to identify the impact on women since they are mostly the victims of these abuses.

The term `direct impacts' is used to refer to the negative environmental or social effects created as a direct result of the violent conflict on women. It comes as a result of direct clashes or combat, rape, sexual abuse and abduction. These direct impacts include; Sexual violence, Rape, Sexual & Domestic slaves to combatants, Sexual exploitation by peacekeepers and humanitarian workers, Forced prostitution and slavery, Casualties of violence, internally displaced persons and as refugees and Family protection burden. Indeed, rape and sexual violence in wartime is perhaps the most well-advertised gender specific aspects of conflict. The vast majority of people who have suffered these crimes are women and those who have committed them are men.

Large numbers of women, during the genocide, were infected with HIV AIDs which has long term negative consequences. Survivors of the Rwandan genocide have testified that the transmission of the HIV virus was a deliberate act by the perpetrators, because, before they raped them, would say that they were not going to kill them directly but rather give them a slow death from AIDS (Elbe :2002). Though it is strenuous to provide competent evidence that proves the transmission of AIDS was used as a weapon of war, there is preliminary evidence that suggests the transmission was conducted on purpose. Two-thirds of a sample of 1,200 Rwandan genocide widows tested positive for HIV, and the infection rates in rural areas more than doubled after the genocide (Elbe 2002). Some survivors of the mutilation suffered from breast cancer and a whole lot of diseases because some of them lost their breast or other parts of their body. Stigmatization of those who have suffered sexual violence, Women's health, increase in poverty rate are all part of the long term negative impacts of violent conflict on women.

Analyzing the Rwandan Genocide and its negative impact on women it is obvious that violent conflict has innumerable negative impact in our society and which retard development. Women have had the greater proportion of the atrocities, pain, trauma and agonies because of their roles and their sex. Though men have also been victims of these atrocities, their suffering is just a tip of the iceberg compare to their women counterpart. Today Rwanda appears like a country that has no vision, hope, nor future. The women swim in poverty, cloth with all kinds of diseases and sing songs of sorrow and pain. The current economic situations in Rwanda are even evidence of how gender and for that matter attack on women can affect the development of the state. Using the Feminist Peace and Conflict Theory (FPCT) is essential and should not be relegated to the background because it is the only theory which will provide us with the realities of the sufferings of the greater proportion of the victims of violent conflict who are women. One is right to conclude that women suffer most in violent conflict than men.

The fact that participants of armed conflicts are aware of their duties and norms does not mean that rights will be protected. Law cannot do over what people, who are responsible for their own actions, decide and let. Nevertheless, any kind of application of a law will affect people even in the conditions of a war. That just goes to prove a fact that development and enhance of special norms is a necessity. If each and every participant of an armed conflict will follow those rules and norms will really protect rights of people, who became the object of violation. As negative consequences of non-international conflicts are even higher that of international ones, regulatory issues must be taken into special consideration. Law does not define legality of armed conflict; it just works with events of that conflict regardless of the reasons, legal status of participants and possibility of approval. When a state uses armed forces to achieve constitutional order on the territory, it is a last thing. However, in particular occasions it is the only way which allows government to protect basic and unalienable rights and freedom of man, including the most important- right to life.

conflict women violence gender


1. Bennett O.J. and Fancy (1998). Bexley and K. Warnock (eds) (1995), Arms to fight, Arms to Protect: Women Speak out About Conflict, Panos Institute of London.

2. Bunch C. and R. Carrillo (1992), Gender Violence: A Development and a Human Right Issue, Attic Press, Dublin.

3. Buss D.E. (2009). "Rethinking 'Rape as a Weapon of War'?". Feminist Legal Studies 17 (2): 145-163. doi:10.1007/s10691-009-9118-5. SSRN 1373975

4. Caroline O.N.M. and C.C. Fiona (2001), Victims, Perpetrators or Actors? Gender, Armed Conflict and Political Violence, Zed Books, London and New York

5. Cockburn, C. (1999) `Gender, Armed Conflict and Political Violence', Backgrond Paper for Conference on Gender, Armed Conflict and Political Development, The World Bank, Washington, DC, 9-10 June.

6. Elbe, Stefan (2002). "HIV/AIDS and the Changing Landscape of War in Africa". International Security 27 (2): 159-177. JSTOR 3092146.

7. El Bushra, J. and E. Piza Lopez (1993) `Gender Related Violence: Its scope and Relevance in H. O'Connell (ed.) Women and Conflict, Oxfam Focus on Gender: Vol 1, No. 2, pp. 1-9

8. Graeff-Wassinck, M. (1994) `The Militarization of Women and “Feminism” in Lybia', in E. Addis et al. (eds)

9. Jacobson, R. (1999) `Complicating “Complexity”: Integrating Gender into thee Analysis of the Mozambican Coflict',Third World Quarterly, Vol. 20, No.1, pp.175-87.

10. Keane J. (1996) Reflections on Violence, Verso, London and New York

11. Kelly L. (2000) `Wars Against Women: Sexual Violence, Sexual Politics and the Militarized State', in S. Jacobs, R. Jacobson and J. Marchbank.

12. Lentin R. (ed.) (1997) Gender and Catastrophe,Zed Books, London and New York

13. Masson-Matthee, Marie?lle D, Brigit C. A Toebes, and Marcel Brus. 2013. Armed Conflict And International Law. The Hague: T.M.C. Asser Press.

14. Munkler Herfried (2005). The New Wars. Cambridge: Polity Press. ISBN 978-0-7456-3336-7

15. Reiss A. and J. Roth (eds) (1993) Understanding and Preventing Violence, National Academy Press, Washington DC.

16. Turshen M. and C. Twagiramariya (eds) (1998) What Women Do in War Time: Gender and Conflict in Africa,Zed Books, London and New York.

17. Yuval-Davies, N. (1985) `Font and Rear: the Sexual Division of Labour in the Israeli Army', Feminist Studies,No.3.

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