Showing posts tagged as "women"

Showing posts tagged women

12 Nov
Don’t sacrifice Afghan women for a deal with the Taliban | Samina Ahmed
In November 2001, on the eve of the Taliban’s ouster, former first lady Laura Bush tied the US-led intervention to the plight of Afghan women. “The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women, she said. Ten years later, in July 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stressed that any “potential for peace will be subverted if women and ethnic minorities are marginalized or silenced.”
Yet Afghan women are increasingly concerned that, as the withdrawal of foreign troops nears, they will be sacrificed at the twin altars of international indifference and Afghan political expediency. They have reason to be concerned. Nonetheless, the gains they have made in the last 12 years can and should be secured with the help of the international community.
FULL ARTICLE (Christian Science Monitor)
Photo: DVIDSHUB/Flickr

Don’t sacrifice Afghan women for a deal with the Taliban | Samina Ahmed

In November 2001, on the eve of the Taliban’s ouster, former first lady Laura Bush tied the US-led intervention to the plight of Afghan women. “The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women, she said. Ten years later, in July 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stressed that any “potential for peace will be subverted if women and ethnic minorities are marginalized or silenced.”

Yet Afghan women are increasingly concerned that, as the withdrawal of foreign troops nears, they will be sacrificed at the twin altars of international indifference and Afghan political expediency. They have reason to be concerned. Nonetheless, the gains they have made in the last 12 years can and should be secured with the help of the international community.

FULL ARTICLE (Christian Science Monitor)

Photo: DVIDSHUB/Flickr

22 Oct
Fighting for women’s rights in Afghanistan | Louise Arbour
On April 22, 2013, complying with the verdict of his village’s mullahs, a father publicly executed his daughter in Afghanistan’s northwestern province of Baghdis. The young mother’s alleged crime:  running away with a male cousin while her husband was in Iran. This case, among many others, shows that the Afghan state has failed to protect women from violence. More than twelve years after the Taliban’s ouster, despite international support and the hard work of human rights’ activists, equal protection and equal benefit of the law are notable by their absence for the vast majority of Afghan women. With the international forces rushing to the exits, Kabul’s ability and willingness to protect women could further decline.
FULL ARTICLE (Foreign Policy) 
Photo: Canada in Afghanistan/Canada en Afghanistan /Flickr 

Fighting for women’s rights in Afghanistan | Louise Arbour

On April 22, 2013, complying with the verdict of his village’s mullahs, a father publicly executed his daughter in Afghanistan’s northwestern province of Baghdis. The young mother’s alleged crime:  running away with a male cousin while her husband was in Iran. This case, among many others, shows that the Afghan state has failed to protect women from violence. More than twelve years after the Taliban’s ouster, despite international support and the hard work of human rights’ activists, equal protection and equal benefit of the law are notable by their absence for the vast majority of Afghan women. With the international forces rushing to the exits, Kabul’s ability and willingness to protect women could further decline.

FULL ARTICLE (Foreign Policy) 

Photo: Canada in Afghanistan/Canada en Afghanistan /Flickr 

2 May

Women, certainly in our day and age, have much more capacity to understand that there is something noble about attending to your daily needs. You may not build cathedrals, but every day you feed your children, you clean your house. This is part of the human condition.

Louise Arbour, Crisis Group’s President and CEO, in an interview with the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs

30 Jan
Tamils await their peace dividend / By Louise Arbour
For Tamils, the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war has brought no peace dividend; for Tamil women, peace has brought with it a continuation – and in some cases an intensification – of violence and insecurity. In the country’s predominantly Tamil-speaking north and east – a region half the size of Nova Scotia – tens of thousands of “war widows” have been living under the control of the central government and Sinhalese security forces since 2009 and the end of the civil war, whose last few months saw as many as 40,000 civilians killed.
There has been an alarming increase in gender-based violence, including domestic violence, within the Tamil community, as well as forced prostitution and trafficking. All of this is against a backdrop of credible evidence of wartime sexual violence by government forces, including video footage showing soldiers making sexual comments while handling dead, naked bodies of female suspected Tamil Tiger fighters, some with their hands bound. At the UN Human Rights Council session opening late next month, there is a chance to finally ensure accountability and to address the current state of insecurity; Sri Lanka and the international community, including Canada, should take it.
To date, the government’s response has been to deny the existence of threats to women’s security – past or present. Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the U.S. recently claimed that there is “no discrimination for women in Sri Lanka” and reduced the existence of rapes to a “couple of cases,” while a military spokesman said there was no “insecurity issue” for women in the north and east. This would come as a surprise not only to the women and girls from that region who have been victimized over the last three years, but also to women across Sri Lanka who have seen increasing gender disparities in income and higher education, as well as many recent cases of murder, rape and sexual harassment in the south by current and former security force members.
These government denials should also be a red flag to anyone wanting to believe that Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission – whose long-awaited report to President Percy Mahendra Rajapaksa was made public in December – represents a change in the regime’s approach to accountability and reconciliation. The government has already shown no compunction in ignoring the LLRC’s finding that women in the north and east “feel unsafe in the presence of the armed forces,” and, given past performance, there is every likelihood it will disregard the LLRC’s sensible recommendations on governance, land issues and a political solution.
Indeed, any positive outcomes that could flow from the LLRC report will likely remain theoretical, given that the report failed to provide a thorough and independent investigation of alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the final stages of the war, as demanded by the UN and others, including Canada. From the beginning, the government hamstrung the LLRC by giving it a feeble mandate, choosing pro-government commissioners with clear conflicts of interest, and failing to provide any witness protection.
The LLRC’s report accepts at face value the largely unexamined claims of senior government and military officials who planned and executed the war, fails to adequately address the many credible allegations detailed in last April’s report of the UN Secretary-General’s panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka, and rolls back well-established principles of international law. In the end, the LLRC works to exonerate the government and, in so doing, undermines its own limited calls for further inquiry, including a call for yet another government investigation of the above-mentioned video footage, which officials repeatedly have described as “faked.”
There is, however, an opportunity to address Sri Lanka’s entrenched culture of denial and impunity – including for crimes against women – at the upcoming session at the UN Human Rights Council. Canada has already played an important role in recent months by reminding the world about the need for accountability and justice in Sri Lanka. Now is the time to put their principles into action in Geneva. Canada should take a firm stand at the HRC and work closely with the United States, Britain, other members of the European Union and, critically, African and Asian states – especially India – to make sure this marks the beginning and not the end of a real accountability process.
At a minimum, there should be a formal dialogue at the council to discuss both the LLRC and UN reports, to ensure that the full range of credible allegations of war crimes, and the deficiencies in domestic accountability processes, are addressed openly and in detail. It is essential that the council remain seized of this matter and mandate a high office – such as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights – to monitor and assess the Sri Lankan government’s implementation of the LLRC’s recommendations and any further accountability efforts. Finally, Canada and other HRC members should be prepared at this June’s session to endorse an international inquiry, absent a truly credible domestic accountability process – an all but inevitable result.
As the international community seeks, laudably, to recommit itself to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, it needs to reflect seriously on what happened in Sri Lanka: arguably one of its greatest single failures to provide even a modicum of safety to hundreds of thousands innocent victims of war. If the opportunity is again missed to provide some form of accounting, the sustainable peace that all Sri Lankans deserve after so many decades of civil war and political violence will be only further out of reach.
Louise Arbour is president and CEO of the International Crisis Group.
The Globe and Mail

Tamils await their peace dividend / By Louise Arbour

For Tamils, the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war has brought no peace dividend; for Tamil women, peace has brought with it a continuation – and in some cases an intensification – of violence and insecurity. In the country’s predominantly Tamil-speaking north and east – a region half the size of Nova Scotia – tens of thousands of “war widows” have been living under the control of the central government and Sinhalese security forces since 2009 and the end of the civil war, whose last few months saw as many as 40,000 civilians killed.

There has been an alarming increase in gender-based violence, including domestic violence, within the Tamil community, as well as forced prostitution and trafficking. All of this is against a backdrop of credible evidence of wartime sexual violence by government forces, including video footage showing soldiers making sexual comments while handling dead, naked bodies of female suspected Tamil Tiger fighters, some with their hands bound. At the UN Human Rights Council session opening late next month, there is a chance to finally ensure accountability and to address the current state of insecurity; Sri Lanka and the international community, including Canada, should take it.

To date, the government’s response has been to deny the existence of threats to women’s security – past or present. Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the U.S. recently claimed that there is “no discrimination for women in Sri Lanka” and reduced the existence of rapes to a “couple of cases,” while a military spokesman said there was no “insecurity issue” for women in the north and east. This would come as a surprise not only to the women and girls from that region who have been victimized over the last three years, but also to women across Sri Lanka who have seen increasing gender disparities in income and higher education, as well as many recent cases of murder, rape and sexual harassment in the south by current and former security force members.

These government denials should also be a red flag to anyone wanting to believe that Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission – whose long-awaited report to President Percy Mahendra Rajapaksa was made public in December – represents a change in the regime’s approach to accountability and reconciliation. The government has already shown no compunction in ignoring the LLRC’s finding that women in the north and east “feel unsafe in the presence of the armed forces,” and, given past performance, there is every likelihood it will disregard the LLRC’s sensible recommendations on governance, land issues and a political solution.

Indeed, any positive outcomes that could flow from the LLRC report will likely remain theoretical, given that the report failed to provide a thorough and independent investigation of alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the final stages of the war, as demanded by the UN and others, including Canada. From the beginning, the government hamstrung the LLRC by giving it a feeble mandate, choosing pro-government commissioners with clear conflicts of interest, and failing to provide any witness protection.

The LLRC’s report accepts at face value the largely unexamined claims of senior government and military officials who planned and executed the war, fails to adequately address the many credible allegations detailed in last April’s report of the UN Secretary-General’s panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka, and rolls back well-established principles of international law. In the end, the LLRC works to exonerate the government and, in so doing, undermines its own limited calls for further inquiry, including a call for yet another government investigation of the above-mentioned video footage, which officials repeatedly have described as “faked.”

There is, however, an opportunity to address Sri Lanka’s entrenched culture of denial and impunity – including for crimes against women – at the upcoming session at the UN Human Rights Council. Canada has already played an important role in recent months by reminding the world about the need for accountability and justice in Sri Lanka. Now is the time to put their principles into action in Geneva. Canada should take a firm stand at the HRC and work closely with the United States, Britain, other members of the European Union and, critically, African and Asian states – especially India – to make sure this marks the beginning and not the end of a real accountability process.

At a minimum, there should be a formal dialogue at the council to discuss both the LLRC and UN reports, to ensure that the full range of credible allegations of war crimes, and the deficiencies in domestic accountability processes, are addressed openly and in detail. It is essential that the council remain seized of this matter and mandate a high office – such as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights – to monitor and assess the Sri Lankan government’s implementation of the LLRC’s recommendations and any further accountability efforts. Finally, Canada and other HRC members should be prepared at this June’s session to endorse an international inquiry, absent a truly credible domestic accountability process – an all but inevitable result.

As the international community seeks, laudably, to recommit itself to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, it needs to reflect seriously on what happened in Sri Lanka: arguably one of its greatest single failures to provide even a modicum of safety to hundreds of thousands innocent victims of war. If the opportunity is again missed to provide some form of accounting, the sustainable peace that all Sri Lankans deserve after so many decades of civil war and political violence will be only further out of reach.

Louise Arbour is president and CEO of the International Crisis Group.

The Globe and Mail

21 Dec

AP: Tamil Women Exposed to Abuse

By KRISHAN FRANCIS

Ethnic Tamil women in Sri Lanka’s former war zones face abuses including sexual violence, trafficking and forced prostitution, an international human rights group said Wednesday.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group said there have been credible allegations of sexual violence against women in those areas at the hands of both security forces and men from their own communities.

The group said many cases go unreported in the country’s north and east, where a 25-year civil war ended in May 2009 when government troops defeated separatist Tamil rebels.

Scores of Tamil women live alone, or with young children or elderly parents because their husbands are dead or in government detention.

"The fear of sexual violence in the home is widespread in part because the military’s access is unfettered and women often have no choice but to interact with them," the group said in a statement.

"There are also alleged incidents of sexual violence when women go to the security forces for information about their detained husbands. These cases are especially difficult to corroborate, perhaps in part because these victims would put their husbands at risk if they came forward."

Military spokesman Brig. Nihal Hapuarachchi said he has been monitoring events in the former war zones but has not come across any such incident.

AP via ABC News

Looks like the Post picked up the AP story, too.

20 Dec
Women in Sri Lanka’s predominantly Tamil-speaking north and east are facing a desperate lack of security in the aftermath of the long civil war.
Sri Lanka: Women’s Insecurity in the North and East, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, warns that the heavily militarised and centralised control of those areas – with almost exclusively male, Sinhalese security forces – creates serious problems for women’s safety, sense of security and ability to access assistance. They have little control over their lives and no reliable institutions to turn to. The Sri Lankan government has mostly dismissed women’s security issues and exacerbated fears, while the international community has failed to appreciate and respond effectively to the challenges they face.
“More than two years after the end of the war, many women still live in fear of violence by the state and from within their own communities”, says Alan Keenan, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst and Sri Lanka Project Director. “The conflict has badly damaged the social fabric and has left women and girls vulnerable at multiple levels. A concerted and immediate effort to empower and protect them is needed”.
Thirty years of civil war between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has resulted in tens of thousands of female-headed households in the north and east. They struggle daily to cope with the detention or absence of family members, continuing displacement and desperate poverty.  Militarisation and the government’s refusal to devolve power or restore local civilian administration in those areas have directly contributed to complex societal distress, which comes on the heels of the collapse of the preceding repressive regime run by the LTTE.
The consequences for women and girls have been severe. There have been alarming incidents of gender-based violence, and many women have been forced into prostitution or coercive sexual relationships. Fear of abuse and the reassertion of patriarchal norms within the Tamil community have further restricted women’s movement and impinged on education and employment opportunities. The fact that women must rely on the military for everyday needs not only puts them at greater risk of gender-based violence, but also prevents them from building capacity within communities.
The current situation comes in the wake of serious accusations of sexual violence by the military against Tamil women at the end of the war and in the months thereafter. The long-awaited report of the government’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), delivered to the president on 20 November 2011 and released to the public on 16 December, largely ignores the issue of sexual violence except to recommend yet another “independent investigation” into video footage that shows what appears to be Sinhalese soldiers making sexual comments while handling the dead, naked bodies of female suspected LTTE – footage that government officials repeatedly have said was “faked”.
“The LLRC’s report acknowledges important grievances and makes a number of sensible recommendations, but ultimately fails to question the government’s version of events with any rigour”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “The crisis of security for women in the north and east warrants a serious financial and political commitment by the government and its international partners, as well as renewed efforts to ensure transparency and accountability, especially around the issue of sexual violence. Without such efforts, the government risks feeding Tamil fears of such violence and the exploitation of those fears by some diaspora activists, both of which could increase the risk of a return to violence”.
FULL REPORT

Women in Sri Lanka’s predominantly Tamil-speaking north and east are facing a desperate lack of security in the aftermath of the long civil war.

Sri Lanka: Women’s Insecurity in the North and East, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, warns that the heavily militarised and centralised control of those areas – with almost exclusively male, Sinhalese security forces – creates serious problems for women’s safety, sense of security and ability to access assistance. They have little control over their lives and no reliable institutions to turn to. The Sri Lankan government has mostly dismissed women’s security issues and exacerbated fears, while the international community has failed to appreciate and respond effectively to the challenges they face.

“More than two years after the end of the war, many women still live in fear of violence by the state and from within their own communities”, says Alan Keenan, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst and Sri Lanka Project Director. “The conflict has badly damaged the social fabric and has left women and girls vulnerable at multiple levels. A concerted and immediate effort to empower and protect them is needed”.

Thirty years of civil war between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has resulted in tens of thousands of female-headed households in the north and east. They struggle daily to cope with the detention or absence of family members, continuing displacement and desperate poverty.  Militarisation and the government’s refusal to devolve power or restore local civilian administration in those areas have directly contributed to complex societal distress, which comes on the heels of the collapse of the preceding repressive regime run by the LTTE.

The consequences for women and girls have been severe. There have been alarming incidents of gender-based violence, and many women have been forced into prostitution or coercive sexual relationships. Fear of abuse and the reassertion of patriarchal norms within the Tamil community have further restricted women’s movement and impinged on education and employment opportunities. The fact that women must rely on the military for everyday needs not only puts them at greater risk of gender-based violence, but also prevents them from building capacity within communities.

The current situation comes in the wake of serious accusations of sexual violence by the military against Tamil women at the end of the war and in the months thereafter. The long-awaited report of the government’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), delivered to the president on 20 November 2011 and released to the public on 16 December, largely ignores the issue of sexual violence except to recommend yet another “independent investigation” into video footage that shows what appears to be Sinhalese soldiers making sexual comments while handling the dead, naked bodies of female suspected LTTE – footage that government officials repeatedly have said was “faked”.

“The LLRC’s report acknowledges important grievances and makes a number of sensible recommendations, but ultimately fails to question the government’s version of events with any rigour”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “The crisis of security for women in the north and east warrants a serious financial and political commitment by the government and its international partners, as well as renewed efforts to ensure transparency and accountability, especially around the issue of sexual violence. Without such efforts, the government risks feeding Tamil fears of such violence and the exploitation of those fears by some diaspora activists, both of which could increase the risk of a return to violence”.

FULL REPORT

19 Dec

Crisis Group held an Award Dinner in New York City last Friday in honor of four extraordinary women who’ve dedicated their lives to promoting peaceful, just and open societies in some of the world’s most conflict-affected regions. You can read more about Sihem BensedrineShukri IsmailClaudia Paz y Paz Bailey and Sima Samar on crisisgroup.org. 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered the keynote address, which you can read in full here.

Wall Street Journal reporter Mike Vilensky was in attendance:

Last Friday, President Bill Clinton was running late to the “In Pursuit of Peace” Dinner, an awards ceremony and soiree for the International Crisis Group, held at Pier Sixty in Manhattan, where both he and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were to speak.

Introduced by CNN newsman Wolf Blitzer as “a man that absolutely, positively needs no introduction,” Louise Arbour, chief executive of the Crisis Group, came on stage in lieu of Mr. Clinton. “Fortunately because of the lights I can’t see the looks of disappointment on your faces,” Ms. Arbour joked. “But I’ll take it for granted you were expecting someone considerably taller.”

The former president and Mrs. Clinton eventually arrived, and they dined with guests including billionaire investor George Soros and singer Sarah McLachlan.

The Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization preventing and resolving global conflicts, honored human-rights activists Shukri Ismail, Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey, Sihem Bensedrine and Sima Samar. (Ms. Ismail heads a health organization based in Somaliland; Ms. Paz Bailey is the attorney general in Guatemala; Ms. Bensedrine is a journalist in Tunisia; and Ms. Samar heads a human-rights organization in Afghanistan.) 

FULL ARTICLE (The Wall Street Journal)

And Swanee Hunt has this to report in the Daily Beast:

An hour later, Secretary Clinton gave her rousing keynote. She and I have had many a conversation over the years about our shared passion for bringing women into the concept of security. In her speech, she reminded us that of the 300 peace accords signed in the last 20 years, half have failed. “What’s missing from the peace talks?” asked the secretary. “One answer is women.”

War has changed, but the way we approach peace hasn’t. The secretary emphasized that we need a new way to build lasting stability—and that new way is the untapped power of women.

She described vast networks of women in almost every conflict zone, whether lawless mountains of Pakistan or “up-country” in the forests of Liberia.

Women are preventing wars and healing stricken communities. When we recognize that, we’re looking at global security from a new perspective.

Clinton emphasized that most men aren’t warmongers, and women aren’t universally altruistic. In fact, we make peace because it’s the smart thing to do. Women understand the cost of war because we pay that debt long into the future—through psychological trauma, pregnancy and HIV/AIDS from mass rapes, schools and clinics destroyed, and family ties broken. But most important, women want to protect their children. “Sustainable peace” is not just a set of buzzwords to us or to them; it’s an imperative for a secure home as well as a secure world.

FULL ARTICLE (The Daily Beast)

We’ll post other news stories about the night as they come in.