Women in conflict situations need justice | Roma Bhattacharjea

18 Oct 2013

 Sudanese women gather at workshop on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. (Photo: Soujoud Elgarrai/UNAMID)

When conflict causes a breakdown in social order and the rule of law, inequalities increase and women bear the brunt of the violence. We should, however, not view women as mere victims, as they play a vital role in ensuring sustainable peace.

On October 18 the UN Security Council will discuss this role, and reaffirm the right of women to access the rule of law and seek redress for human rights abuses during conflicts. More than a decade after Security Council Resolution 1325 was drafted, which, among other things, committed countries to protecting women and girls in conflict situations, women's voice, leadership and participation, safety, economic security, and access to justice are still distant goals. If all goes well, the Security Council will agree to a new resolution that recommits countries to changing this situation.

Sexual and gender-based violence happen wherever there is armed conflict, even after peace treaties have been signed. Reducing violence against women and girls, however, allows girls to go to school, avoid early marriages, and helps decrease human trafficking. It allows women and girls to contribute to just and equal societies, which do not relapse into armed conflict. When the Security Council meets this week, the international community needs to send a strong signal that justice for women survivors, along with accountability for perpetrators of violence are fundamental for lasting peace.

Through the work of our national and international partners, with UNDP’s help, women’s access to justice in post-conflict contexts is improving. In Sierra Leone, for example, Saturday courts, dedicated to dealing with sexual and gender-based violence, concluded dozens of cases last year and helped send a clear message that violence against women will no longer be tolerated. In Iraq, 16 UNDP-supported family protection units give assistance to survivors of domestic violence and violence against women. By the end of 2012, they had registered over 4,600 cases.

Through these efforts, we not only stand in solidarity with women affected by violence, but we give women a chance to be active defenders of human rights, to take their place in society and to help guarantee peace.

Talk to us: How can we better ensure women’s access to justice and security in times of conflict?

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