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Women´s Issues After Beijing
Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women
Positions - Networks - Results


Chapter III

The Twelve Critical Areas of Concern of the Beijing Platform for Action: A Women´s Agenda for the Twenty-first Century

5 Women and armed conflict: war and civil war are a waste of peace resources
Analysis

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.
The Platform calls upon all Governments to work actively "towards general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control". A comprehensive and speedy conversion of military resources as promised and planned reduction of arms expenditure are, however, linked to reservations on the basis of national security concerns. The same reservation applies to their declared willingness to "reduce excessive military expenditure", to limit arms production and to stop the acquisition of arms.

Promote disarmament - reduce arms expenditure

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.
(The German Government responded in June 1994 to the UN appeal made in a resolution of the General Assembly (48/75 K) to stop the use and export of APMs. This moratorium was initially limited to three years and was extended indefinitely on January 11th, 1996, by Cabinet decision. In April 1996, the German Government announced the immediate and complete ban on the use of APMs so that the use and export of anti-personnel land-mines are banned without exceptions in Germany today. Existing stocks will be destroyed).
At the International Review Conference of the UN Convention on Armament of 1980, which convened in stages between October 95 and May 3rd, 96 in Vienna and Geneva, the German Government spoke up in favour of extending the areas of application of the Protocol on the Use of Mines. A comprehensive export ban which is binding under international law was rejected in Geneva because of opposition in particular by Pakistan, India and the People´s Republic of China. However, the Conference - including these countries - agreed on substantial improvements to the Protocol on the Use of Mines:The Protocol on Mines will also apply to internal armed conflicts (civil war) in future. Non-detectable anti-personnel mines are banned.
The most commonly used form of mines, the APMs laid by hand, must in future be equipped with a self-destructive and self-deactivating device. The same applies to APMs laid from a distance, including by gun or aircraft. Areas with manually laid mines without self-destructive and self-deactivating devices must be fenced in and guarded. De-mining must take place before the area is cleared.
With the conclusion of the Conference, the signatory States are committed to stop, immediately and indefinitely, the transfer of non-detectable APMs or APMs laid by gun or aircraft. Once the Protocol has been ratified, the self-imposed commitment will become legally binding in respect of transfer of mines. Those violating the terms of the Protocol and thus killing or seriously injuring civilians are personally liable to prosecution.
Monitoring the new agreements will not include on-site inspections. The signatory States agreed to consultations and annual reports and mutual assistance in mine clearance. The effectiveness of the more comprehensive Protocol should be reviewed at an international conference by the year 2001 at the latest.
Canada will issue invitations to a conference sometime this year (1996); this is planned as a first step towards a universal ban on anti-personnel mines. The German Government lends support to the Canadian initiative. The German Foreign Office presented a "Programme of Action with 7 items" on APMs on July 18th, 1996, in which it announces a greater commitment for a universal ban and more financial resources for mine clearance.
The UN Convention of 1980 on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects is to be universally ratified by the year 2000. This applies particularly to the Second Protocol on the Use of Mines of this Convention which restricts the use of anti-personnel mines. It is planned to widen the areas of application of the Convention with the aim of affording better protection of civilian populations. The Governments commit themselves to programmes of assistance in mine clearance. They propose to exchange technical information about mines and intensify research on mine clearance. States which have not yet agreed to a ban on the export of anti-personnel mines are called upon to do so. All Governments should encourage further international efforts to stop the production and use of such mines world-wide.

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".
The Platform wishes to encourage the women´s contribution towards fostering a culture of peace. Peace research by and on behalf of women should be promoted and developed. All institutional participants of the Conference are called upon to promote peaceful conflict resolution, reconciliation and tolerance through education, training and exchange programmes, in particular for young women. Joint educational programmes should be established for girls and boys to promote a culture of peace. The Platform considers the level of research on the psychological, economic and social impact of armed conflicts to be inadequate for alleviating or healing its consequences.

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.

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© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | Net Edition mv&ola | Oktober 1997