Cedaw Gen Rec # 30
The stated aim of General Recommendation No. 30 on women in conflict prevention, conflict and post-conflict situations is to underline States Parties’ obligations under CEDAW related to situations of conflict, and to overcome gaps in States Parties’ reporting on the same. Significantly, the General Recommendation stipulates the application of CEDAW not only to situations of conflict classified under international humanitarian law, but also to “other situations of concern” and lists examples of these such as “war against terrorism,” “internal disturbances,” and “political strife.”
The General Recommendation includes a specific section referencing the Security Council WPS agenda. It notes that “all the areas of concern addressed in [the WPS] resolutions find expression in the substantive provisions of the Convention,” [and] “reiterates the need for a concerted and integrated approach that places the implementation of the Security Council agenda on women, peace and security into the broader framework of the implementation of the Convention and its Optional Protocol.” Recommendations are made that States Parties report on the implementation of the WPS agenda through the CEDAW reporting procedure, with a list of ways that States Parties can advance their commitments.
Women, children & peace
remembering the martyrs of APS Peshawar
Peshawar Press Club, 15 December 2015
On the eve of the first barsi of APS martyrs, the Foundation criticised the scope and pace of the National Action Plan. “NAP as a consensus policy to counter-terror became possible after our children and others were brutally killed in APS”, said Rashida Dohad. Implementing NAP is a befitting tribute to their memory. Regular public updates on NAP and inclusion of women in negotiating and building peace was demanded. Ms. Bushra Gohar, SVP-ANP, Mr. Jaffer Shah, MPA, and Ms. Rukhshanda Naz, lawyer and activist also participated in the public debate involving citizens from districts Peshawar, Nowshera, Mardan, Battagram, Abbottabad and Haripur of KP and from FATA.
Women’s role in reducing vulnerability & insecurity in Pakistan
23 November 2015, Islamabad
Activists from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assessed the impact of crisis situations on women, reviewed government responses and its international obligations under Cedaw, and recommended citizen actions to protect women’s rights and expand their role in negotiating and building peace in Pakistan.
Women in conflict conditions
Its importance is underscored by the conditions in Pakistan where insecurity casts an unyielding shadow darkening horizons across the country. A review of the past ten years, 2004-15, reveals the gravity of conditions. Hundreds of thousands suffered the dangerous mix of militancy, extremism, armed conflict, floods, and earthquakes.
An estimated 50,000 people have been killed and many more injured by acts of violent extremism incited by political, religious or sectarian differences. The state’s responses to assaults by non-state actors have also caused casualties and losses. While no place is considered entirely safe, major hotspots include FATA, Peshawar, Malakand, Quetta, Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat, Hangu, Karachi, and, Lahore. Thousands are forced to live in periodic or chronic displacement, with the largest exodus of an estimated 200,000 triggered in 2009 by the armed conflict in Malakand. The ongoing military operation in North Waziristan is also forcing people to flee their homes, seeking refuge in the nearby towns of Bannu and Karak, or further away cities and towns in Pakistan and also across the border in Afghanistan.
Insecurity caused by endless violence was tragically deepened by a series of devastating natural disasters. Counted among the worst this region has ever experienced were two catastrophic calamities – the 2010 floods affecting about 18 million people across the country, and, the 2005 earthquake impacting an estimated 4 million in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Hazara region and the Azad Jammu & Kashmir.
Behind these statistics are untold miseries. Hundreds of thousands mourned the death of loved ones, and, suffered injuries, disability and displacement. Homes were destroyed, businesses affected, livelihoods and education disrupted. The traumatizing trail of the past ten years continues to surge ahead, scarring more lives, homes and livelihoods. There is little chance of it diminishing or vanishing soon.
Crisis conditions affect women more than others. Like elsewhere, violence against women is used as a weapon of war/combat not only to violate women but also to humiliate their men. It also erodes the social and moral fabric of entire communities across generations. When militants held sway in Malakand during 2007-09 local women endured horrific violence including rape, forced marriages, and enforced seclusion. A glimpse of barbarities unleashed was made public in April 2009 when a video showing a teenage girl being flogged by the Taliban flashed on television screens across the country. Sadly, even after fleeing the atrocities in Malakand, women lived in fear. Those who found refuge in camps set up for the displaced were unnerved by the proximity it forced with non-family males, heightening risks of sexual harassment. Even using makeshift toilets placed away from tents during the night held danger. Women also fare poorly during natural disasters. A rapid assessment of the 2005 earthquake by Shirkat Gah, Aga Khan University, Omar Asghar Khan Foundation and others identified additional stresses the disaster placed on women. The destruction of houses, for example, not only left women shelter-less, but also deprived them of privacy.
Women who lose husbands, sons, brothers or other male relatives to conflicts face the trauma of bereavement and also the challenge of assuming the role of household head and bread-earner. The case of Masuma bibi in District Abbottabad who had to work as domestic help in several homes to feed her three surviving children after the 2005 earthquake killed her husband and young son is sadly far too common. Some poor women and girls fall prey to racketeers exploiting their invisibility for illegal sexual, domestic, and industrial labour. Many submit to hurried marriages, a less criminal but equally manipulative measure taken by their next of kin eager to shift their new custodial responsibilities.
Women are also among the first to be affected by infrastructure loss. Problems magnify in poorer areas where roads, healthcare and schools are hopelessly inadequate. Their destruction takes away even meager services women may have accessed before the crisis, and which they often desperately need during and after the disaster strikes. Loss of health facilities, for example, multiply health challenges especially for pregnant women needing obstetric care. The conflict in Swat impoverished the area and its people. Regular bombing of schools forced many girls to give up education, reducing their opportunities of moving out of poverty.
Women’s vulnerability and capacity to cope with crisis is compounded by entrenched gender inequalities and patriarchy. Socially constructed reproductive and productive roles, caring responsibilities and cultural expectations of their gendered identity are strands that weave together to limit women’s opportunities often impoverishing them, and placing them at greater risk to shocks. Patriarchal norms give men the status of wali or guardians, defying the equality of citizens defined in the Constitution of Pakistan. Women are reduced to becoming objects to be protected, and lose autonomy over their lives and even bodies. Efforts to protect women’s rights in crisis must embrace attempts to change chronic impoverishing conditions.
Somber realities call for urgent policy action. The ambit of public or policy debate on domestic or regional challenges to peace is typically gender-blind. Sadly, women’s interests are seldom well represented in policy discussions, and their agency restricted. For example, recent discussions on strategies to deal with militancy revolve around the options of dialogue or force. Concern is sometimes expressed about civilian casualties and the need to arrange facilities for temporary displacement and medium to long-term rehabilitation of affected people. But the impact on women is largely ignored. Women do not have a seat at the negotiating table. Similarly, debates on bilateral relations with India or Afghanistan are dominated by prospects of mutual economic advantages, concerns about respecting sovereignty, and, the dangers of accelerating an arms race. Even the imperative of human security is not considered in relation to dividends for women.
Cedaw’s General Recommendation #30 is a directly relevant response. It calls for concrete measures to ensure women’s human rights are protected before, during and after conflict. It makes clear that Cedaw applies in all forms of conflict and post-conflict scenario and addresses crucial issues women face in these settings, including violence and challenges in access to justice and education, employment and health. It gives specific guidance on state’s obligation of due attentiveness in respect of crimes against women by non-state actors. It reinforces women’s critical role in conflict prevention, peace-building and reconstruction processes. The general recommendation highlights the need for a concerted and integrated approach with the Security Council agenda on women, peace and security, based on a model of substantive equality, and allows for better monitoring of women’s human rights in conflict-affected settings.