Publication Date: 2010
Keywords: Women and Justice
Despite a mandate to protect civilians, security services (military and police) often perpetrate violence against women (VAW) especially in environments where accountability and opportunities for redress are low. Similarly, women are often treated unfairly by both formal and informal justice systems. This paper argues discouraging violence against women should form an integral component of the political process underpinning stabilisation, and stabilisation security and justice (S&J) programming should address violence against women as effectively as possible within the parameters of a country’s political, social and cultural construct. Based on previous experience, this paper identifies common challenges facing women exposed to violence and provides recommendations for practitioners on how to address these in S&J programming.
The extent to which S&J programmes are capable of reflecting the needs of intended beneficiaries is acknowledged as a key success factor: 'people-centred' approaches produce more effective and sustainable results and are seen as more relevant and legitimate by beneficiaries. S&J programmes which adopt an institutional approach without engaging civil society to determine local needs - including those of women - are less likely to be successful.
The paper suggests the protection of women by one element of the S&J sector can be undermined by a lack of progress in another. For example, if police improve their investigative capability for crimes against women, but the rest of the criminal justice system are out of step by not being able to cope with the increased levels of reporting, this will undermine the efforts of the police and lower public confidence. Moreover, a lack of data on the extent of VAW makes both programme design and monitoring and evaluating exceedingly difficult. The absence of meaningful evaluation makes judging progress across the problematic.
It is suggested VAW initiatives need to take account of the fact that considerable male resistance is likely to reform efforts which enhance women's status. Careful analysis, planning and engagement with civil society may help to identify male champions of the processes. Local cultural influences may act to condone VAW and thus prove to be a major challenge to progress. However, cultures and traditions are dynamic over time; culturally relevant reform proposals may provide a useful entry point. Whilst projects specifically focusing on VAW have been relatively successful, there is a risk that treating VAW separately from 'mainstream' security and justice programmes might marginalise the crime and its victims further in the eyes of those working in the criminal justice system and the wider population.
Those working to reduce VAW will become aware of a number of challenges and tensions. VAW policy proposals will be competing with other public security priorities as well as trying to balance immediate responses with longer-term preventative responses. Tension may also arise between the need to work collaboratively with host nation authorities whilst challenging the impunity of serving officials. Care also needs to be exercised in supporting communities discussing VAW whilst not being seen as culturally-insensitive.