VAW in Conflict

Women, Violence and Conflict in Pakistan. International Crisis Group [Internet]. 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Eight years into its democratic transition, violence against women is still endemic in Pakistan, amid a climate of impunity and state inaction. Discriminatory legislation and a dysfunctional criminal justice system have put women at grave risk. Targeted by violent extremists with an overt agenda of gender repression, women’s security is especially threatened in the conflict zones in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). On 8 March, International Women’s Day, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed that his government would take all necessary legislative and administrative steps to protect and empower women. If this pledge was in earnest, his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government should end institutionalised violence and discrimination against women, including by repealing unjust laws, countering extremist threats, particularly in KPK and FATA, and involving women and their specially relevant perspectives in design of state policies directly affecting their security, including strategies to deal with violent extremist groups.

Cohen DK, Nordas R, Wood E. Four Things Everyone Should Know about Wartime Sexual Violence. The Washington Post [Internet]. 2014. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The three-day Global Summit in June 2014 to End Sexual Violence in Conflict co-chaired by Angelina Jolie, offered visitors insight into the summit's message through cinema, art and photography in London. 

Global Summit Falls Short on Concrete Commitments to End Sexual Violence. The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict [Internet]. 2014. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Members of The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict today expressed their disappointment that the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence, hosted by the UK government, ended with few tangible results that will make an immediate impact on the ground.

Nasar S. Violence against Women, Bleeding Wound in the Syrian Conflict. Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network; 2013. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Unveiling instances of violence against women (VAW) is one of the most demanding tasks in the Syrian context. Important challenges concerning sexual violence related to both the social cultural context in Syria and methodology of documentation hamper the documentation process. Extensive and sustained efforts are necessary to ensure that these violations will be addressed during the transitional justice period that should follow the end of the armed conflict and that adequate means are deployed in order to provide victims with support, accompaniment and rehabilitation.

This document is a documentation report prepared by Syrian human rights and women’s rights activist Sema Nasar, a member in the Syrian Human Rights Network, with the support of the EMHRN and experts in documentation.

The report is an outcome of an ongoing EMHRN programme aimed at reinforcing networking and capacities of Syrian human rights activists and groups to document and advocate on human rights violations. The process was initiated in 2011, and since then the EMHRN organized consultation meetings, workshops and trainings in documentation for Syrian human rights activists in view of enhancing the documentation efforts carried out by Syrian Human Rights Groups. An integral part of the process is to also to facilitate access of Syrian HR activists to international mechanisms at UN and EU level and to other decision makers in the region .

A Revolution for All: Women’s Rights in the New Libya. Human Rights Watch; 2013. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This 40-page report highlights key steps that Libya should take to meet its international obligations by firmly rejecting gender-based discrimination in both law and practice. The report calls on Libya’s parliament, the General National Congress (GNC), to ensure that women are involved on equal terms with men in the entire constitution drafting process, including active participation in the Constituent Assembly tasked with preparing the draft.

Women in Democratic Transitions in the MENA Region. Rabat: Global Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Wellesley Centers for Women, UN Women, UNDP, and the International Republican Institute; 2013. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Rabat Conference in November 2012 was hosted by the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior in partnership with the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Wellesley Centers for Women with support from Lynn and Bob Johnston. UN Women, UNDP, and the International Republican Institute provided valuable collaboration.

This conference took place at a pivotal moment in the political transformations in the MENA region and brought together parliamentarians, ministers, judges, local government officials, public servants, and civil society leaders to strategize on the role of women’s leadership in democracy building, transitional justice, and the rule of law. This publication brings together a few of the conference papers and provides important insights into women’s critical role in transitional justice processes.

A Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. United Nations [Internet]. 2013. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Declaration contains a set of practical and political commitments to end the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war, which terrorises and destroys communities during conflict. The Declaration sends an important message to the victims of these crimes that the international community has not forgotten them, and to the perpetrators of rape that they will be held to account.

The Declaration was launched in New York on 24 September 2013 during the United Nations General Assembly, by Foreign Secretary William Hague and UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura.

For a Better Life: Migrant Worker Abuse in Bahrain and the Government Reform Agenda. Human Rights Watch; 2012. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This 123-page report documents the many forms of abuse and exploitation suffered by migrant workers in Bahrain and details the government’s efforts to provide redress and strengthen worker protections. Bahraini authorities need to implement labor safeguards and redress mechanisms already in place and prosecute abusive employers, Human Rights Watch said. The government should extend the 2012 private sector labor law to domestic workers, who are excluded from key protections.

Progress of the World's Women: In Pursuit of Justice. United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women; 2011. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Progress of the World's Women: In Pursuit of Justice looks at how the legal system can play a positive role in women accessing their rights, citing cases that have changed women's lives both at a local and at times global level. It also looks at the important role women have played and continue to play as agents for change within the legal system, as legislators, as lawyers, as community activists; but also asks why, despite progress on legal reform, the justice system is still not delivering justice for all women.

The report focuses on four key areas: legal and constitutional frameworks, the justice chain, plural legal systems and conflict and post-conflict. Drawing on tangible examples of steps that have been taken to help women access justice, the report sets out ten key recommendations for policy and decision makers to act on in order to ensure every woman is able to obtain justice.

Pakistan: State of Human Rights in 2011. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; 2011. Publisher's VersionAbstract

2011 was a mixed bag for human rights. There certainly were some positives; some things remained unchanged; and then there were the aggravations. Ratification of a key child rights instrument, extension of Political Parties Act to FATA, introduction of laws to promote women's rights, religious minorities getting representation in the Senate, and a right to statutory bail for detainees in prisons are all steps that ought to be welcomed.

Unfortunately, the inability to introduce implementation mechanisms for international human rights treaties ratified by Pakistan remained unchanged, as did the indifference to or complicity with banning women from voting, and curbing disappearances and extrajudicial killings. The moratorium on executions stayed informal. The prisons remained at breaking point. Nothing was done to revive elected student unions in educational institutions or end the glut of weapons across the country. The public education system remained a scandal, the budgetary allocations to public healthcare fell even further, the government ceded ground to extremists and was utterly unprepared at the framework level to cope with internal displacement and its impact.

Hughes P, Fleetwood R ed. Violence Against Women: Protection and Prevention Through International Law. INTERIGHTS Bulletin [Internet]. 2011;16 (3). Publisher's VersionAbstract

The articles in this Bulletin draw attention to the different ways in which violence against women can manifest itself and in so doing highlight its pervasiveness and the stark failure of many states to take action to prevent it from happening. Although ‘intimate-partner’ violence and sexual coercion are the most common types of violence affecting women and girls, in many parts of the world violence can take on special characteristics depending on different cultural and historical conditions. Some of those characteristics are examined in this Bulletin including the trafficking of women, the treatment of migrant domestic workers and violence against women in situations of armed conflict.

Deacon Z, Sullivan C. An ecological examination of rural mozambican women's attainment of postwar wellbeing. Journal of Community Psychology [Internet]. 2010;38 (1) :115-130. Publisher's VersionAbstract;jsessioni...

*The full article is available through this link. This article may be available free of charge to those with university credentials.

Women's experiences of warfare and postwar recovery are qualitatively different from those of men. However, to date, the processes whereby women recover from the gendered impacts of war have not been sufficiently explored. In order to address this gap in the literature and to inform policies and services aimed at women recovering from warfare, a qualitative investigation was conducted of the process whereby women in one rural community in northern Mozambique attained wellbeing in the wake of war. Findings indicate that factors at all levels of the socio-ecological system were significant in supporting women's attainment of postwar wellbeing.

Barrow A. UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820: constructing gender in armed conflict and international humanitarian law. International Review of the Red Cross [Internet]. 2010;92 (877) :221-234. Publisher's VersionAbstract

*The full article is available through this link. This article may be available free of charge to those with university credentials.

While the Geneva Conventions contain gender-specific provisions, the reality of women’s and men’s experiences of armed conflict have highlighted gender limitations and conceptual constraints within international humanitarian law. Judgements at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) ad hoc tribunals have gone some way towards expanding the scope of definitions of sexual violence and rape in conflict. More recent developments in public international law, including the adoption of Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 focused on women, peace and security, have sought to increase the visibility of gender in situations of armed conflict. This paper highlights important developing norms on women, peace and security. Although these norms are significant, they may not be radical enough to expand constructions of gender within international humanitarian law. This leaves existing provisions open to continued scrutiny.

Din NU ed. Pakistan: State of Human Rights in 2010. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; 2010. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Ratification by Pakistan of all core international human rights treaties was among the positive highlights of the year, although the benefits were not immediately visible to the people. Two new laws were enacted to deal with sexual harassment. The Commission of Enquiry on Missing Persons cited the intelligence agenciesí role in enforced disappearances and for the first time the Supreme Court issued notices to these agenciesí heads. In the conflict-ravaged Swat region, the Taliban could no longer patrol the roads or flog citizens. The activities of non-governmental organisations grew, although many of the threats they faced also increased. 

Addressing the Needs and Supporting the Crucial Roles of Widows in Society, Particularly in Conflict and Post-Conflict Scenarios. Johannesburg, South Africa : The International Council of Women; 2009.Abstract

A resolution ratified by the ICW-CIF GENERAL ASSEMBLY, 14-19 October 2009, Johannesburg, South Africa (in association with National Council of Women of Great Britain and Widows for Peace through Democracy).

Smet M. Sexual Violence Against Women in Armed Conflict - Council of Europe. Council of Europe; 2009. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Sexual violence against women in armed conflict is a crime against humanity, a war crime, and an unacceptable – but, unfortunately, effective – weapon of war. Raping, sexually assaulting and mutilating, forcibly impregnating and infecting with HIV/AIDS the wives, daughters and mothers of the “enemy” not only have terrible physical and psychological effects on the victims themselves, but are capable of disrupting, if not destroying, whole communities.

It has taken centuries for sexual violence against women in armed conflict to be outlawed. It was not until 2008 that the international community, via United Nations Security Council Resolution 1820 on women, peace and security, recognised that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, and a constitutive act with respect to genocide.

However, sexual violence against women in armed conflict is unfortunately still common – it was a constitutive feature of the Balkan wars little more than a decade ago. Today, the main victims of this crime are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (especially in Kivu) and in Sudan (especially in Darfur). To this day, thousands of victims are denied access to justice, reparation and redress. The lives of the victims remain blighted in many ways while the perpetrators enjoy almost complete impunity for their crimes.

SIN TREGUA Políticas de reparación para mujeres víctimas de violencia sexual durante dictaduras y conflictos armados. Santiago de Chile: Corporación Humanas; 2008 pp. 218. Publisher's VersionAbstract


El libro analiza las políticas de reparación para mujeres víctimas de violencia sexual durante dictaduras y conflictos armados en Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala y Perú, en el marco de los avances del Derecho Internacional de los Derechos Humanos y el Derecho Humanitario. Sin Tregua es el resultado de un proceso de reflexión realizado durante el año 2007, en donde se agruparon organizaciones de derechos de las mujeres y derechos humanos de cinco países de América Latina con el objetivo de identificar aprendizajes a partir de los hallazgos de las investigaciones nacionales desarrolladas por el Equipo Latinoamericano de Justicia y Género (ELA - Argentina), el Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS - Argentina), la Corporación Humanas de Chile y Colombia, La Cuerda (Guatemala) y el Estudio para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (DEMUS - Perú). Los ensayos reunidos en esta publicación dan cuenta de las ausencias y omisiones en relación al impacto de las violaciones de derechos humanos a las mujeres en los contextos de guerra interna y/o represión.

Security Council Resolution 1820 (2008) - Women & Sexual Violence. United Nations Security Council [Internet]. 2008. Publisher's VersionAbstract

S/RES/1820 (2008)

The Security Council Resolution recognizes a direct relationship between the widespread and/or systematic use of sexual violence as an instrument of conflict and the maintenance of international peace and security; commit the Security Council to considering appropriate steps to end such atrocities and to punish their perpetrators; and request a report from the Secretary General on situations in which sexual violence is being widely or systematically employed against civilians and on strategies for ending the practice.

Ertürk DY. Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences: Mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. United Nations Human Rights; 2008. Publisher's VersionAbstract

2008 - Addendum - Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo


Sexual violence has been a defining feature of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s recent armed conflicts. Women, in areas of armed conflict, still suffer sexual violence committed by the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC), the Police nationale congolaise (PNC), armed groups and, increasingly, civilians. The situation is particularly dramatic in South Kivu, where non-State armed groups, including foreign militia, commit sexual atrocities that aim at the complete physical and psychological destruction of women with implications for the entire society. Given the multitude of actors involved in the conflict and the continuation of these crimes, the international community, in cooperation with the Congolese authorities, has a responsibility to take all necessary measures to ensure that women in South Kivu are protected. Sexual violence extends beyond eastern Congo. In Equateur Province, PNC and FARDC have carried out systematic reprisals against the civilian population, including mass rape. Soldiers and police who commit these acts amounting to crimes against humanity are rarely held accountable by the commanding officers. Some of the perpetrators have been given commanding positions in the State security forces, which further aggravates the situation. Impunity for rape is massive. Due to political interference and corruption, perpetrators, especially those who belong to the State security forces, go unpunished. The limited support made available to the overburdened justice system raises questions as to whether there is political will to end impunity. 

Annex to the Guidance Document: General and Specific Protection of Women under International Humanitarian Law. International Committee of the Red Cross [Internet]. 2004. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This Annex includes both the general and specific protection afforded to women under international humanitarian law, meaning that some of the legal provisions apply equally to men and women without adverse distinction, while others apply exclusively to women. Although this table only refers to international humanitarian law, other bodies of law, such as human rights law, refugee law and domestic law also protect women in situations of armed conflict.