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Women’s Participation in Peace Building

Context:

A UN Peacekeeping Commander once noted that being a woman in an armed conflict may be more perilous than being a soldier. The current situation in Gaza serves as a stark illustration, with the death toll exceeding 25,000, and over 17,000 women and children having lost their lives by January 24. UNICEF has labelled Gaza as the ‘most dangerous place to be a child,’ with 1.1 million children facing threats from conflict, malnutrition, and diseases.

Relevance:

GS1- Role of Women and Women’s Organization

GS2-

  • Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests
  • Important International Institutions, agencies and fora – their Structure, Mandate

Mains Question:

The perilous circumstances faced by women in conflict zones cannot be overstated. Analyse. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

The Conflict in Ukraine:

  • In parallel, the prolonged conflict in Ukraine since 2022 has resulted in a surge of refugees to 5.6 million and internal displacement (IDP) reaching about 7.7 million, of which 60% are women (according to the UN).
  • Various studies on peace and warfare argue that any conflict, whether civil or armed, is inherently ‘gendered,’ impacting women and men disparately.
  • Researchers contend that during unrest, when political structures and economic systems break down, it exacerbates women’s vulnerability, reinforces existing inequalities, and exposes women and girls to a high risk of gender-based violence (GBV).

Violence Against Women in Conflict Zones:

Sexual Violence:

  • Social scientists express concern that in conflict zones, sexual offenses against women are often downplayed, and heinous crimes like rape are normalized as an ‘inevitable outcome of war.’
  • The UN’s 2022 report on sexual violence in conflict zones emphasizes that sexual violence is deployed as a tactic to dehumanize and displace populations.
  • Even in post-war situations, when apparent peace is declared, the culture of violence against women persists or intensifies, continuing even after men return from the battlefield.
  • A three-country study in post-conflict Iraq, conflict-ridden Occupied Palestinian Territory, and the openly conflicted Yemen revealed that women and girls face deep gender inequalities and enduring adverse impacts in such calamitous situations.
  • Women also bear the brunt of substantial internal displacement (IDP) in the aftermath of conflict and violence. In 2020, at least 21 million women and girls were uprooted within their countries, with two-thirds of them hailing from Africa and the Middle East.

Job Insecurity of Women in Conflict Ridden Zones:

  • In South Asia, women constitute 42 to 52 percent of refugees. Since the commencement of the war in Gaza in October, nearly one million women have been displaced.
  • In the aftermath of conflicts, a study revealed that women undergo increased impoverishment, often being the first to face job layoffs in the public sector, leading to the feminization of the informal sector.
  • Additionally, the absence of essential services like healthcare, including sexual and reproductive health services, exposes them to higher risks of unplanned pregnancies, maternal mortality, reproductive injuries, and sexually transmitted infections. Girls also encounter obstacles in accessing education.

Participation in Peace Agreements:

  • From 1992 to 2019, women’s involvement in formal peace processes was limited, averaging 13% as negotiators, 6% as mediators, and 6% as signatories in major peace processes.
  • In UN-led or co-led peace processes in 2022, women’s participation was 16%, down from 19% in 2021 and 23% in 2020.
  • In the same year, only 33% of peace agreements referenced women, girls, and gender, with these figures stagnating between 20% and 35% annually.

Other Relevant Areas:

  • According to the UN’s 2023 ‘Women, Peace, and Security’ report, over 600 million women and girls resided in conflict-affected countries in 2022, marking a 50% rise since 2017.
  • Political violence against women in conflict-affected nations increased by 50% between 2020 and 2022.
  • Civil conflicts have more than doubled from 30 in 2001 to 70 in 2016, primarily in the least developed countries.
  • Despite the escalating need for humanitarian aid, global military spending reached USD 2.2 trillion in 2022, negatively impacting both gender equality and global peace, according to UN Women.

Way Forward:

  • Many feminists argue that gender perspectives should be integrated into reconstruction and redevelopment plans in conflict and post-conflict scenarios. Currently, male norms and behaviors are considered the human norm.
  • The application of international humanitarian law necessitates an understanding of the gendered harms resulting from armed conflict.
  • Women’s participation in peace agreements significantly prolongs their duration, with a 20% increase for at least two years, 35% for 15 years, and a 64% reduced likelihood of failure.

Conclusion:

As the world teeters on the brink of more turmoil, meaningful participation of women is crucial for a broader perspective on conflict management, inclusive political resolutions, and effective peace-building strategies


February 2024
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