Women face increasing violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Media: The Associated Press
Date: 27 October 2006

UNITED NATIONS - Women are facing increasing violence in Iraq, Afghanistan
and Somalia, especially when they speak out publicly to defend women's
rights, a senior U.N. official told the U.N. Security Council.

Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of the U.N. Development Fund for Women,
called for fresh efforts to ensure the physical safety of women in countries
emerging from conflicts, to provide them with jobs, and ensure that they
receive justice including compensation for rape.

"Efforts to engage women in public decision-making will not succeed if women
risk continued violence for taking on public roles, and they cannot be
expected to be effective public actors if they have no source of
livelihood," she said Thursday.

"What UNIFEM is seeing on the ground _ in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia _ is
that public space for women in these situations is shrinking," Heyzer said.
"Women are becoming assassination targets when they dare defend women's
rights in public decision-making."

"And everywhere, there is evidence that sexual and gender-based violence is
taken into homes and communities after conflicts have ended, as
ex-combatants return with small arms, and social norms that protect women
remain broken," she said.

Heyzer was one of several dozen speakers at a day-long open council meeting
on implementation of a resolution adopted in 2000 that called for women to
be included in decision-making positions at every level of peacemaking and
peacebuidling. It also called for the prosecution of crimes against women
and increased protection of women and girls during war.

"What we have learned," Heyzer said, "is that the earlier women are
recognized as peace agents and engaged in peace processes, from mediations
to peace negotiations to constitutional reform, the more they are seen as
legitimate actors."

Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno said that in the
past year Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first woman
head of state in Africa, Liberia adopted a rape bill, women in Sierra Leone
pushed for laws on trafficking, inheritance and property rights and women in
East Timor submitted a draft domestic violence bill to parliament.

But despite these positive developments, he said, women face widespread
insecurity even after guns have been silenced at the end of conflicts, and
in many societies violence is still used as a tool to control and regulate
the actions of women and girls seeking to rebuild their homes and

"In Afghanistan, attacks on school establishments put the lives of girls at
risk when they attempt to exercise their basic rights to education,"
Guehenno said. "Women and girls are raped when they go out to fetch firewood
in Darfur. In Liberia, over 40 percent of women and girls surveyed have been
victims of sexual violence. In the eastern Congo, over 12,000 rapes of women
and girls have been reported in the last six months alone."

Assistant Secretary-General Rachel Mayanja, the U.N. special adviser on
women's issues, said "the past year has demonstrated that our collective
efforts to ensure equal participation of women in the consolidation of peace
so far have generally fallen short of what is required."

From Congo and Sudan to Somalia and East Timor, she said, "women continue to
be exposed to violence or targeted by parties to the conflict ... lacking
the basic means of survival and health care."

At the same time, Mayanja said, they remain "underrepresented in
decision-making, particularly on war and peace issues."

Assistant Secretary-General Carolyn McAskie, who is in charge of supporting
the new U.N. Peacebuilding Commission which was established this year to
help countries emerging from conflict, said her office will draw attention
to the special needs of women and girls.

It will also try to ensure that "space is created for women's active
participation in political, economic and social life."

"We cannot ignore the voices of the women from the time we broker peace
onwards," McAskie said. "Peacemaking is not just an exercise involving
combatants, it must involve all of society, and that means women."

At the end of the meeting, the council reaffirmed its commitment to the full
implementation of the 2000 resolution and recognized the vital role and
contribution of women in consolidating peace.

But the council said it "remains deeply concerned by the pervasiveness of
all forms of violence against women in armed conflicts" and reiterated its
strong condemnation of all acts of sexual misconduct by U.N. peacekeeping