UN’s Inadequate Response to Gender-Based Violence

Yesterday the UN Security Council heard from more than fifty speakers on the perpetuation of gender-based violence in war. Thoraya Obaid, head of the UN Population Fund, chastised the counsel for not implementing programs that would provide protection to women in conflict areas.
“From Afghanistan to Liberia, from Colombia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from Burundi to Darfur — the list goes on and on — women and girls, and even men and boys, are being subject to sexual violence, torture and slavery that defy the imagination and bring into sharp focus the cruelty that human beings can inflict on each other. It is truly sad, and terribly angering, to see the tremendous needs. But it is even more shocking to witness the response so far, which remains completely inadequate.
What actions could the UN take to provide a more adequate response? Well, I think Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno was on the right track when he disparagingly noted that, “women constitute only 1 percent of military personnel in U.N. peacekeeping operations, and peace processes and negotiations remain overwhelmingly male-dominated arenas.” In fact, out of the 27 U.N. special representatives in charge of U.N. peace operations, only two are women. While I don’t believe that placing women in these positions of power would necessarily change the landscape of the problem, it *is* a step in the right direction.
Intensely disturbing is Guehenno’s observation that *this year alone* in the Congolese city of Bunia, 70 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse were made against U.N. peacekeeping personnel. Until the UN deals with the issue of sexual assault among its “peacekeepers”, I’m hard-pressed to understand how it can “protect” women from more systemic forms sexual violence. (sigh). Thoughts?
Check out Jessica’s piece on What’s (not) being done in the Sudan for more discussion on violence against women as a war crime.

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