Women, RtoP and the Media

21 Nov


In a recent interview posted on The Daily Beast, Abigail Disney recently interviewed Major General Patrick Cammaert to comment on the pervasive and distressing issue of rape as an instrument of war. In response, Major Cammaert described ways in which we can act to deal with such crimes as through increasing women’s participation in policy, through training sessions, and through media—in particular using films as tools to educate the public and promote accountability. But, what is missing throughout the interview is any notion of state responsibility to protect women from such crimes; ending impunity but also preventing them from occurring in the first place.  

The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) norm was first affirmed in 2005 with the aim to protect civilians from crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, and ethnic cleansing. RtoP has three pillars: Primary responsibility to protect lies with the state. The international community has a responsibility to assist states in fulfilling this primary function. If a state proves unwilling or unable to protect civilians, then the international community can take collective, protective action, primarily to prevent violence but also to halt violence in situations where less coercive measures have failed to do so.

While RtoP has gained additional acceptance since its initial affirmation, there are still issues regarding the use of force and the full participation of women in all aspects of RtoP policy and practice that remain unresolved. On the implementation side, there is widespread concern that the Security Council is unresponsive to ‘early warning’ signs of atrocities, preferring to respond to fires than heading the smoke. Moreover, the Council refuses to conduct vigorous assessment of resolutions and mandates that could help prevent ‘mission creep’ or ensure that all preventive measures have been exhausted before military options are proposed.

 And with regard to gender, there is concern that states have not done enough on the prevention end to eliminate any and all possibilities that rape could be used as a war tactic, nor has the international community been sufficiently robust in its efforts—despite welcomed legal attention by the ICC—to end impunity for gender violence, especially that authorized or committed by states and their agents.

However, in addressing these other concerns, women’s perspectives and voices must also be fully incorporated into the conversation to ensure that their needs are met practically and their skills and capacities are integrated successfully. Societies characterized by women who are full participants in social and political life can play a tremendous role in mobilizing other women to support more robust priorities towards increasing participation and ending impunity. As part of this mobilization, Major Cammaert notes, film can play an important role in educating local women about rape and inspiring women to work on behalf of victims. Likewise, in the broader discourse on gender and RtoP, media of all forms can do more to educate women about a state’s responsibility to protect, highlight the gender gaps in RtoP policy and implementation, identify work that still needs to be done in the protection area, and inspire cultures that promote and support “women as agents of change.”


For more information on the interview, please visit: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/11/07/rape-in-wartime-can-be-eradicated-u-n-peacekeeper-says.html


–         Melina Lito


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