After any kind of conflict ends, the first debate is - how to reimagine a post-conflict society? Who will take power? What kind of power-sharing needs to take place? What will be different from before that will ensure a lack of violence in the future? But one of the questions that is rarely dealt with is the issue of bringing women into post-conflict conversations. There is a chronic lack of representation of women in post-conflict negotiations. Women don’t have a seat at the table nor do they have a say in what comes after.
One way that the United Nations is attempting to address this is by increasing the number of female peacekeepers worldwide. By letting people from all across the world see women in powerful positions, there is a higher chance that they will be welcomed as a participant of any negotiation. According to Senator Mobina Jaffer of Canada, “Women on the ground during peace operations foster greater trust in the communities in which they serve, leading to an increased reliability in intelligence and opportunities for capacity building.” In other words, when women are at the forefront of peacebuilding, they have higher chances to increase women's rights, educational opportunities and economic advancement for everyone.
Unfortunately, when we think about gender representation in conflict, we often think about the amount of gender-based violence, such as rape or focused attacks on women and children. Because of womens’ marginalization during conflict, gender parity in post-conflict societies is heavily studied. The International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute includes “enslavement, sexual slavery, and enforced prostitution or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity” as a crime against humanity. The ICC has a history of overseeing cases where these kind of crimes are sadly common. Thankfully, because of this acknowledgement, crimes committed against women are not the norm.
So how does one improve the role of women in a post-conflict society? You might start by including women in negotiations and making sure that the crimes committed against them are appropriately dealt with. Another step? Female peacekeepers and women in power. In some post-conflict societies, women don’t have the right to own property or vote. This takes away from their power. So in building a stronger post-conflict society, it’s critical to address this. This can be talked about in reconciliation conversations and crimes can be addressed in tribunals. There are concrete ways that every society can take to better bring women into post-conflict negotiations.
At a time when imbalanced conflict and violence towards civilians seems to be increasing, it’s so important to talk openly not only just about the fact that violence against women happens, but also that in order to move forward, gender equality needs to be more than theory. It has to be put into practice.
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