Time to rethink the women, peace and security agenda?

On June 24th 2013 the Security Council, under the Presidency of the United Kingdom, issued its sixth Agota Sjostromresolution on women, peace and security, Resolution 2106. Although under the rubric of women, peace and security, the new resolution focuses on measures to prevent and deter sexual violence in armed conflict. In continuing the focus on sexual violence the resolution takes us full circle from the first resolution on women, peace and security, Resolution 1325, which incorporated the Council’s response to sexual violence within armed conflict as an element of a broader approach. The new resolution, in contrast, places sexual violence as the primary concern and then incorporates additional issues relating to women, peace and security only as elements of responding to combating sexual violence– including HIV, sexual and reproductive health, women’s participation, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration processes.

While deploring the violence and suffering men and women experience as victims of conflict, including sexual violence, I wish to challenge the disproportionate attention to sexual violence as the epitome of women’s experiences of armed conflict. The failure of this approach to see or hear women as actors across the spectrum of conflict experiences reinforces women as represented through victimhood, vulnerability and childhood. Although Resolution 2106 acknowledges men and women as victims of sexual violence in armed conflict (in paragraph 6 of the preamble) the operative paragraphs fall back into the use of ‘women and children’ terminology risking not only the erasure of the experiences of male survivors but also re-asserting an equivalence between women and children in conflict situations that is ultimately harmful to women. Continue reading

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