Gender inequality, whether in the systematic oppression of women or the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community, is arguably the most prevalent and enduring threat to peace and security.
We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.Malala Yousafazai
Whether it is intimate partner violence, or the brutal and widespread rape of thousands orchestrated by a war lord, women, girls and LGBTQ persons are victims of systematic oppression and violence everywhere in the world.
And yet, we know that peace depends on their full and active political participation. Peace processes negotiated by women actually outlast ones that are not. For peace, and for the physical security of more than half of the world’s population, we need gender equality.
What forms of violence do women experience?
35% of women internationally have reported experiencing physical or sexual abuse.
- Female Genital Mutilation: 125 million women and girls have experienced genital mutilation.
- Sex Slavery and Trafficking: With an estimated 4.5 million women and girls affected, this illegal industry has an annual value of $32 billion.
- Sexual Assault: 83% of adolescent girls in the U.S. report experiencing sexual harassment; up to 500,000 women and girls were estimated to have been raped in the ’94 Rwandan Genocide.
- Child Marriage: 700 million women alive today were married before they were 18. 250 million of these women were married before they were 15.
How does conflict make women more vulnerable to violence?
90% of war casualties are civilians, the majority of whom are women and children.
Sexual violence is a war crime under international law, but is so often treated as an unfortunate yet unavoidable consequence of war. The numbers are dire, as the UN Reports:
In Rwanda, between 100,000 and 250,000 women were raped during the three months of genocide in 1994. UN agencies estimate that more than 60,000 women were raped during the civil war in Sierra Leone (1991-2002), more than 40,000 in Liberia (1989-2003), up to 60,000 in the former Yugoslavia (1992-1995), and at least 200,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1998.
So let’s be absolutely clear: measures to deal with rape as a weapon of war in isolation will fail and fail miserably. If we truly want to end this scourge we must move from managing conflict symptoms to ending the conflicts themselves.John Prendergast
How do women promote peace?
Palestinian peaceworker Ibtisam Mahameed explains why women need to be at the heart of peace negotiations.
When women are included in the peace process, those agreements are 35% more likely to last 15 years than peace agreements in which women were not consulted.
Women play active roles in the demobilization of troops during conflict, but their contributions tend to be ignored or underestimated during formal negotiations. Of the 585 peace agreements negotiated between 1990 to 2010, only 92 contained any references to women, and less than 10% of negotiators overall were women. Due to international consensus that women, representing half of the population, cannot be left out of peace agreements, this is beginning to change: In 2014, half of all signed peace agreements included references to women, peace and security.
The rule of law, women’s access to transitional justice, and women’s participation are deeply connected. Women must be involved at every stage of efforts to reassert the rule of law and rebuild societies through transitional justice. Their needs for security and justice must be addressed. Their voices must be heard. Their rights must be protected.Ban Ki-Moon