Peacekeeping missions, since the United Nations first deployment of military observation to the Middle East in 1948, have predominately been a masculine endeavour, following societal construction of the field of mission as requiring braveness, strength, courage, stout, endurance among other characteristics associated with masculinity. However, during the life of these the male-dominated missions, a number of setbacks were identified especially when it comes to dealing with issued involving women victims or combatants. This is also largely because men were seen as the perpetrators of violence while women were identified as victims in these operations.
For instance, women in these earlier mission areas were left off the hook from any strict security scrutiny which these mission bases paid dearly for it; women infiltrated the camps of peacekeepers to mayhem, killing and causing injuries to great number of the peacekeepers. Women were also not included in any post-conflict peacebuilding mechanism.
Consequently, deployment of female peacekeepers became recognized as not simply advantageous to the success of the peace operations but imperative as it helps the field-base to respond swiftly to the various security needs within the society, improve operational effectiveness, create a representative mission, strengthen civil components of the mission and strengthen democratic oversight.
Increasing the gender balance within a mission increases the peace which is essential for the success of the mission.
The United Nation Security Council recognizing the significance of this fact unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security which calls for the inclusion of uniformed females across peacekeeping missions, urging mission leadership to “expand the role and contribution of women in United Nations field-based operations and especially among military observers, civilian police, human rights and humanitarian personnel”.
To emphasise its main theme, the Resolution takes note of the particular impact of conflict on women and urges member states to include them in peacebuilding processes. According to Mr. Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary General, “more women in peacekeeping means more effective peacekeeping” (Security Council Report, 2018). Moreover, the Resolution impresses on member states, UN agencies, and others actors to ensure that gender issues are taken into account in all aspects of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction processes. This opened the way for women’s inclusion in peace operations, for instance, in Liberia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and many other places.
It is built on three key components:
The nature of armed conflict has changed since the early 1990s from predominantly inter-state to intra-state conflicts with victims mostly being women and children. Worse than simply being incidental victims or collateral damage, women now are actually targeted by armed forces, rebel groups and local militias. They are abducted, sexually exploited and abused, mutilated and detained as sexual slaves or bargaining chips by rebel groups in armed conflict and even during post-conflict.
This maltreatment which is an exacerbated version of the extensive gender inequality that exists prior to the armed conflict, is being increasingly employed as a kind of war tactic or strategy and has shown no signs at all of disappearing.
Despite higher recognition of women’s roles within armed conflict, patriarchal and socio-cultural structures tend to re-assert themselves during peace agreements, negotiations and post-armed conflict. This usually results in the loss of civil liberties owe to women during armed conflict and post conflict processes; relegating women to the domestic spheres and lower levels of political involvement. This trend is assisted by the fact that women’s access to peace processes continue to be uneven.
In Liberia, during the conflict years, serious human rights abuses and war crimes were committed against civilians and especially against women and girls who constituted the major target of atrocities such as rape, other forms of sexual and gender-based violence. According to the Best Practice Report (2010) of United National Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), there were slightly higher than average rates for female peacekeepers and police. Women constituted 2% of military personnel, 18% of police, 30% of international civilian staff and 25% of national civilian staff. To give more effect to Resolution 1325, the first all-female Formed Police Unit (FPU) from India joined UNMIL in 2007 and afterwards, there were three consecutive Indian battalions of approximately 112 women. Among the duties of these all-female battalion as enumerated by the Report, were guards for UN and local authorities (including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf), providing security at local events, riot control, conducting night patrols in and around Monrovia, and assisting in building the capacity of local security institutions.
Including gender perspective in peacekeeping mission has the following significance: First, the principle of equality and non-discrimination are both integral to international human rights laws and crucial for effective peacekeeping operations. International human rights laws provides that any policy or measures must not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth of other status. The design and implementation peace operations, for instance, must always fully respect the principle of equality and non discrimination. Also, it is utterly important that peacekeepers respect the dignity of all peoples at the mission area, both victims and combatants, recognizing their different gender make-ups. For example, whenever a search is required, it must be done with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person whether a male or female. In this regards, it is against a person’s human right for the opposite sex to search him or her.
Operational necessity Including gender consideration in peacekeeping mission is operationally imperative especially due to the fact that experiences in United Nations Mission in Liberia, for example, reveal that women in Liberia communities felt safe at the presence of the female police and peacekeepers in UNMIL which led to an enhanced physical safety and security, citing such security-enhancing measures as FPU night patrols, lighting system, and armed presence as critical. In the words of UNMIL`s Senior Gender Adviser, Carole Doucet, “the new and important best practice in the case of the all female Indian FPU is the capacity of a women-only force to effectively implement formal security provision tasks while providing positive role modeling to citizens”.