In modern conflict the nature of war has changed – the village has become the battleground, splitting communities along racial, religious or ethnic lines. 90 per cent of the people who die in modern conflicts are not soldiers, but civilians, and many of those casualties are women and children. But this is not all – violence, poverty, discrimination and disempowerment that women face in society are amplified in conflict. In areas where women’s rights are already poor, they get worse.
Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced marriages, forced pregnancy and enforced sterilisation are just some of the violent crimes that happen. In Congo an estimated 433,785 women and girls are raped each year and many are forced into marriage – once a wife, they are seen as a piece of property of her husband’s and are subject to life-long abuse. This practise is not confined to the Congo and is common in Pakistan and Zimbabwe to name but some.
Women are also impacted by being windowed in war, slumping them and their children into poverty and increasing their likelihood of sexual violence. In Sri Lanka there are an estimated 89,000 widows. In Kashmir its estimated that 22,000 women have been widowed by war and thousands have been half-windowed – a term used for those whose husbands have been disappeared – and a situation almost worse as they are seen as half a person in society.
Furthermore gender inequality, women’s lack of status in many societies, and the lack of structures to protect women, means that the impact of war is greater on women. And, they are given less chance to be part of resolutions. In Pakistan’s patriarchal society women are rendered voiceless. In Sudan women remain largely absent from peace talks. This is the case worldwide.
But we are doing something to change this. We are helping peacebuilders of all genders to provide support in conflict, helping with the transition from war, with an aim of creating a long-term sustainable peace by addressing the root causes of the conflict. Over the next nine weeks, find out exactly what this looks like. Find out how we are helping develop gendered responses to conflict, empowering women in the prevention and ending of conflicts, and rebuilding communities.