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(New York) – The United Nations and member countries should tackle problems that women in armed conflict endure around the world, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. This year marks the 15th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325, a landmark resolution on women, peace, and security, which the Security Council will debate in October 2015.

Sarah Jamal Ahmed, a 24-year-old sociologist who was one of the activists during the 2011 uprising in Sanaa, stands by posters of dead protesters posted in the streets.  © 2012 Panos/Abbie Trayler-Smith

“The Security Council and governments are better informed than ever about the horrors inflicted on women and girls in armed conflict, but they still drag their feet on the most basic actions to help,” said Sarah Taylor, women, peace, and security advocate at Human Rights Watch. “The UN is 15 years late making good on commitments to condemn these abuses, include women at negotiating tables, protect victims of violence, and punish those responsible.”

The 20-page report, “‘Our Rights are Fundamental to Peace’: Slow Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) Denies the Rights of Women and Girls in Armed Conflict,” examines shortcomings in government and UN action on resolution 1325, including the continued exclusion of women from peace negotiations and the persistence of sexual violence with little access to assistance. It draws on Human Rights Watch field research and interviews with women and girls since 2012 in Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Libya, Nepal, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda.  

Women have little representation in formal peace talks, and are often excluded from decision-making that affects their safety when displaced by conflict, Human Rights Watch said. Women civil society leaders and human rights defenders often face heightened risks in times of armed conflict. The UN, governments, and all parties involved in all negotiations, including mediators and facilitators, should act to ensure women’s participation, treat women’s rights as a priority in negotiations, and see that women’s concerns are reflected in final agreements.

In armed conflicts, women and girls face multiple abuses, including conflict-related sexual violence. Despite commitments from governments and the UN, prevention efforts and access to services remain extremely weak, and in some cases, non-existent.

“The trauma that rape survivors face gets compounded during armed conflict when they don’t have access to medical care, counseling, emergency contraception, and safe shelter,” Taylor said. “The UN and governments should move past wringing their hands at violence against women and girls, and make their protection and access to services a priority in their responses to conflict.”

Women and girls who suffer rights abuses in armed conflicts, including sexual violence, face tremendous barriers in obtaining redress. The UN and governments should ensure comprehensive, credible, and impartial investigations into sexual and gender-based violence and fairly prosecute those responsible, Human Rights Watch said.

The report highlights the challenges facing women and girls in conflict, including:
  • Exclusion of women from negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan; 
  • Abuse faced by Syrian women activists and other civilians;
  • Poor access to assistance for displaced women in Colombia; and
  • Lack of accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Women and girls whose lives have been torn apart by conflict are tired of promises,” Taylor said. “It’s time the UN and member countries bring women and their rights to the front of negotiations and aid.”

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