Nepal in Crisis 2006: Facts
INSEC Opinion Forum:
Violence against Women during Armed Conflict
June 2006
Violence against Women during Armed Conflict

Bidhya Chapagain, June 9 , 2006

Violence against women is not accidental. It is a weapon of war, a tool used to achieve military objectives such as ethnic cleansing, spreading political terror, breaking the resistance of a community, intimidation or to extract information. It has been investigated that, in conflict situation, the targeting of victims and the forms of the abuse carried out during armed conflict were based on gender as well as other identity, such as ethnicity or race. The abuse of women in armed conflict is rooted in a global culture of discrimination that denies women equal status with men.

Social, Political and religious norms identify women as the property of men, conflate women's chastity with family honor and ethnic identity, and legitimize the violence appropriate of women's bodies for individual gratification or political ends.

"Gender-based violence"

General recommendation No. 19 of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), asserts "gender-based violence" is violence that is directed against a women because she is a women or (because violence) affects women disproportionately - "therefore, women who experience infringement upon their human rights due to armed conflict are not under an equal protection of the law.">

Violence against women in Nepal's conflict presents evidence of the horrific scenario during the war. Throughout the armed conflict in Nepal, thousands of women and girls of all ages were subjected to widespread and systematic violence. Nepal's ten years long conflict has been marked by an extraordinary level of brutal human rights abuses, including violence against women. While armed conflict affects women in a number of forms that are conflict specific, certain trends are prevalent across conflicts. It is important to note that most women suffer the impacts of war in multiple ways:

Rape - Trafficking and sexual slavery - Displacement - Economic hardship

Among all above listed impacts on women, sexual violence and rape is being used deliberately and strategically as weapon of war.

The consequences for victims of sexual violence in war are grave and may affect women for the rest of their lives. These includes serious and chronic medical problems, psychological damage, life-threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS, forced pregnancy, infertility, stigmatization and rejection by family members and communities.

The jurisprudence of the international criminal Tribunal for Rwanda recognizes rape and other forms of sexual violence by combatants in the conduct of armed conflict as war crimes. When rape and sexual violence are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, they are considered crimes against humanity and in some cases may constitute an element of genocide.

Although rape as a weapon of war violates the Geneva Conventions and is identified as a war crime, women continue to be raped in modern day conflicts. Sexual violence during wartime is often directly linked to armed groups, military, guerrilla, fighters. The lack of law enforcement in war Zones is exploited by civilians, sex traffickers, or international peacekeepers looking for amusement, opportunities or revenge.

Article 27 of the 1949 Geneva Convention, in responses to the aggressive reprisal upon women during World War II, states, "women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honor, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form or indecent assault." It further denounces these actions based upon nationality, race, religious beliefs, age, marital status or social condition." Common article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, addressing cases of non-international armed conflict, prohibits acts against non-combatants including "murder of all kinds", "violence to life and person", torture, the taking hostages, and outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.

Protocol I of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, addressing civilian and/or military authorities who involved themselves in cases of international armed conflict as well as colonial domination and racist regimes, states women "shall be protected in particular against rape, forced prostitution and any form of indecent assault.">

Many victims of gender based violence during armed conflict are reluctant to talk about their suffering.

Pressure from warring parties of the conflict, the government, the family or community all serve to intimidate many women into silence. Continuing violence or conflict often prevents women from reporting. In many regions reprisal, shame and social stigma are attached to certain types of violence against women, particularly rape. Fear of the consequences of reporting sexual violence, such as facing rejection, alienation, divorce, being declared unfit for marriage and severe economic and social repercussion all discourage women from reporting the violence suffered.

Legal mechanisms for women's protection in wartime are in place. The government should be made accountable for implementing the provisions and ensuring women's human rights are respected during the times of armed conflict. Supporting the victims of sexual violence is very important. The government should strengthen the capacity of police force and judicial system adequately to address cases of sexual violence including rape and should work with the organisations and experts to establish gender-based violence reporting procedures that are effective, sensitive, and that protect victims. The government should ensure that efforts are made to coordinate the various actors providing treatment to those who have suffered sexual violence. The government and other INGOs and NGOs should support effective and culturally appropriate psychological programs for those who suffered sexual violence and ensure that women are included in all aspects of planning for peace, demobilization, reintegration and rebuilding and support local organisations working to promote women's full participation and rights.

Credit Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC), Opinion Forum 2006
more information
Women in Nepal - Social Status
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