Women´s Issues After Beijing
Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women
Positions - Networks - Results
The first and foremost mission of the United Nations, according to its Charter from June 26th, 1945, is "to maintain world peace and international security". Yet the world community is far from protecting itself and "future generations from the scourge of war", as demanded in the Preamble. Comments about noble intentions are contrasted in the Platform with the daily horrors of war and civil war for women. Armed conflicts are obstacles to the social development which is indispensable for women´s equality. They turn women into defenseless gender-specific victims.
War affects women twice
Armament to prepare armed confrontation ties resources which are essential for a peaceful and humane development. It thus undermines the productive interaction between equality, development and peace - terms which set the leitmotif for the Fourth World Conference on Women and are "inextricably linked". The Platform defines war and civil war as an area of systematic violations of human rights in the form of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, summary and arbitrary arrests and executions, disappearances of persons, in the form of racism, intolerance, poverty, starvation and neglect of the rule of law.
Triangle of survival: equality - development - peace
In all parts of the world people are affected by armed conflicts, terror, hostage-taking or foreign occupation. Women and girls suffer particularly because of their sex. The dignity of women has become a welcome target for tactics of war and terrorism in contemporary ethnic conflicts. Women and girls are degraded, tortured and killed by systematic rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancies and other forms of gender-based violence. In almost all cases the perpetrators remain unpunished.
War is an attack on women´s dignity
Practices of war which use sexual violence systematically violate international humanitarian law. The Geneva Convention of 1949 for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and the Additional Protocols provide that women shall be especially protected from attacks on their honour, in particular against humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution or any form of indecent assault. The Beijing Platform recalls its validity and reaffirmation at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna which stated that "violations of the human rights of women in situations of armed conflict are violations of the fundamental principles of international human rights and humanitarian law". Murder, rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy have become common practice in the process of ethnic cleansing. For the first time the stock-taking of the Platform focuses attention on the lack of appropriate counter-measures.
Sexual violence mocks at international humanitarian law
The Platform regards the devastating effect of over 100 million land-mines, scattered in 64 countries globally, as a particularly serious and persistent obstacle to peaceful development. They cause major injuries and lasting mutilation, inevitably affecting the civilian population, especially women and children. The land-mines remain in place when the warring parties leave the combat area and thus seal off large areas which are urgently needed for the cultivation of crops.
Land-mines: a murderous danger for women and children
Strategies and actions to be taken
The Platform mentions equal participation of women in conflict resolution at all levels as the first of six strategic objectives. "The equal access and full participation of women in power structures and their full involvement in all efforts for the prevention and resolution of conflict are essential for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security".
Equal participation of women in all peace activities
Governments should recognize "the leading role" of women in
the peace movement and promote their commitment to a culture of peace.
Equal participation of women must be achieved particularly at decision-making
levels. The Beijing text lists the United Nations´ Secretariat, the
International Court of Justice, the International Tribunals for Rwanda
and for former Yugoslavia. All bodies involved in peaceful conflict resolution
should be enabled to properly address all gender-based forms of violence
against women in situations of war, in particular by providing equal participation
of women in the institutions concerned.
Savings made through reduced arms expenditure should be allocated for social and economic development, in particular for the advancement of women. A more intensive discussion should take place as regards the consequences of excessive military armament, trade in arms and the destructive power of arms.
Anti-personnel land-mines: far from a global moratorium
20,000 people are killed annually by anti-personnel mines (APM), according
to estimates. 85 to 100 million land-mines not yet cleared are scattered
in 65 countries. There is still a long way to go towards a global and controlled
moratorium which is binding under international law. The use of APMs will
be gradually phased out in small steps and lengthy stages.
Put a world-wide stop to anti-personnel mines
Systematic rape and all other inhuman and degrading acts of violence against women in situations of armed conflict should be identified and condemned as instruments of war and ethnic cleansing.
War crimes against women to be condemned and punished
The Governments recognize that there is a deficit in the implementation of international humanitarian law and declare their determination to increase all measures required for better implementation. Acts of violence against women must be properly registered. Rape in the conduct of armed conflicts constitutes a war crime. Steps must be taken to bring perpetrators to justice and to punish them.
More efforts to enforce international law
The effects of economic sanctions on women and children should be alleviated
and food and medical care no longer be used as a tool for political pressure.
The international community is called upon "to condemn and act against
all forms and manifestations of terrorism".
Support women´s initiatives for a culture of peace
In order to prevent the displacement of people, the root causes of their displacement must be investigated more thoroughly. Refugee and displaced women, including those displaced within their own country, are in need of more protection and assistance during their displacement, while in their host countries and on their return. The host countries must take more active measures to improve the situation of refugees. Women must be fully involved in the planning, implementation and monitoring of all programmes providing assistance to refugees in order to protect women and girl refugees from discrimination.The right of displaced women "to return voluntarily to their place of origin in safety and with dignity, and their right to protection after their return" must be properly implemented. National immigration procedures must be brought into conformity with relevant international instruments to ensure that the principle of non-refoulement be strictly observed. Governments have committed themselves in the Platform to investigate if and how sexual violence could be recognized as a reason for being granted refugee status.
© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | Net Edition mv&ola | Oktober 1997