“Women and children constitute some 80 per cent of the world’s millions of refugees and other displaced persons, including internally displaced persons. They are threatened by deprivation or property, goods and services and deprivation of their right to return to their homes of origin as well as by violence and insecurity. Particular attention should be paid to sexual violence against uprooted women and girls employed as a method of persecution in systematic campaigns of terror and intimidation and forcing members of a particular ethnic, cultural or religious group to flee their homes. Women may also be forced to flee as a result of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons enumerated in the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, including persecution through sexual violence or other gender-related persecution, and they continue to be vulnerable to violence or other exploitation while in flight, in countries of asylum and resettlement and during and after repatriation. Women often experience difficulty in some countries of asylum in being recognized as refugees when the claim is based on such persecution.” (para 136, p. 57, BPFA)
Welfare in the Asia Pacific region is increasingly characterised by intra-state conflicts, the displacement and targeting of civilian populations and the destruction of entire communities. In a number of countries in the region, women living in situations of armed conflict are frequently subjected to sexual violence by armed forces including State actors and other persons in positions of authority. Women are often taken hostage in conflict situations or become refugees or displaced persons to escape these situations. In all of these circumstances they are frequently raped and sexually tortured.
Many of the commitments made in the BPFA and the Beijing + 5 Outcomes Document for this target population has yet to be fully implemented. In some cases, due to the increase in conflict in the region and the reaction to the threat of terrorist activity, (including an increased focus on national security over human security) violence and systematised sexual violence in situations of armed conflict appear to have escalated, and have put women and girls at greater risk than before.
It was noted in the Beijing + 10- review that there have been some gains, the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 in October, 2000 was a watershed in the evolution of international women’s rights and peace and security issues. Security Resolution 1325 is the first formal and legal document from the Security Council that requires parties in a conflict to respect women’s rights, to support their participation in peace negotiations and in post-conflict reconstruction.
A new permanent Gender Advisor has been appointed in the UN Dept of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).
It was also noted that women’s participation in the Truth and Reconciliation Committee in Timor Leste, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and the Transitional Justice for Bosnia and Herzegovina have highlighted the significant contribution women have made to the broader pursuit of justice and the advancement of international law. The critical testimonies on mass rape and impunity for sexual and gender based violence have led to some redress of sex crimes (perpetrated against women and men), and staff with gender expertise have improved court procedures for women who have been raped or sexually violated.
However, Warfare in the Asia Pacific region is increasingly characterised by intra-state conflicts, the displacement and targeting of civilian populations and the destruction of entire communities. There is a need to recognise broader national and international economic and political interests in conflict – including increasing militarism, conservatism, fundamentalisms and globalisation and the so-called “war on terror” and their impact on conflict escalation and consequent erosion of women’s human rights in the region.
During times of armed conflict, breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law are commonplace. State and non-state actors continuously fail to adhere to international human rights laws with regard to the treatment of civilians in conflict. Gender-based violence, displacement, marginalisation and militarisation negatively impact on millions of women across the Asia Pacific region. Women living in situations of armed conflict are frequently subjected to rape and sexual violence by armed forces. Systematic, organised military violation of human rights against women including women ‘s human rights defenders and refugee and IDP women, occurs in various forms, including rape, sexual slavery , forced prostitution, forced “marriage” forced pregnancy and forced sterilisation by both state and non-state actors.
Despite Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) being passed unanimously on 31 October, 2001 (S/RES/1325) many countries do not fully utilise this to protect women in conflict and post-conflict situations from violence, especially rape and sexual violence and to bring perpetrators of such crimes to justice. There is an urgent need to support women in building the long term capacity for peace and for women to be fully and meaningfully integrated in decision-making for building peace with justice.
Many states are not held accountable by the international community for these abuses, and victims/ survivors of sexual violence under conflict situations do not have access to just remedies. Lack of treatment and support for torture and trauma for women in post-conflict situations impedes reconciliation and women’s full participation in the reconstruction of communities. Women who become pregnant from rape do not have access to safe abortion.
The “war on terror” has escalated militarisation in a number of countries. This increases human rights violations of women and human rights defenders, destruction of community and environmental degradation. The deployment of military forces and bases in the Asia Pacific region also poses threats to women around those areas. Increasing military spending sacrifices funds for social development and other peaceful industries, and consequently increases the burden of women, especially the poor.
The changing nature of armed conflict has a disproportionate impact on women civilians. Women and children constitute 80% of the world’s refugees and displaced persons. Women and children are often taken hostage in conflict situations or become refugees or displaced persons to escape these situations. In all of these circumstances they are frequently raped and sexually tortured. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that the majority of refugee women and girls are raped as part of the refugee experience. Many countries however, do not recognise rape in these circumstances as torture or persecution, nor as an acceptable ground for the granting of refugee status. These countries therefore reject applications for entry from refugee women on this basis.
At all levels of decision making in the area of conflict resolution women continue to be under represented. Recent events have also seen the UN marginalised from conflict-resolution processes. There was a strong call for the full implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) including strategies to enhance women’s capacity to fully participate in the long term sustainable, peaceful development and reconstruction of their countries and communities.