News / Africa

    Women in Conflict Zones at Risk of Violence, Discrimination

    Internally displaced women from Bangui attend a community meeting in Bambari, Central African Republic, June 16, 2014.
    Internally displaced women from Bangui attend a community meeting in Bambari, Central African Republic, June 16, 2014.
    Lisa Schlein

    U.N. Human Rights experts are expressing concern about the widespread violence and discrimination to which women in conflict-ridden Central African Republic and Syria are subjected. C.A.R. and Syria are two of eight countries examined by the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which monitors States Compliance to existing rules.

    Members of the committee say countries at peace often miss the deadline for submitting reports regarding their implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. So they say they were surprised, though, when delegations from two conflict-ridden countries – the Central African Republic and Syria – arrived on time to argue their cases before the 23 experts.  

    The committee says a six-member delegation from the C.A.R.’s transitional government described the profound crisis into which the country was plunged. It spoke of forced marriage, sexual slavery, rape and other forms of sexual violence against women perpetrated by armed combatants and civilians.

    Crimes of impunity

    The delegation lamented the impunity with which these crimes were being perpetrated, but said the government was helpless to do anything because it lacked a judicial system and all other functioning institutions.

    Committee member and Rapporteur for the Central African Republic Patricia Schulz said it was surrealistic listening to this horrific litany of abuse.

    “It was absolutely not normal. But, we took their presence there as a commitment of the transitional authorities to try and address the urgent needs of women and girls in this country," she said. "They are completely aware and we were completely aware of the very particular situation they are in.”  

    Schulz said the C.A.R. is in a state of collapse and the kind of recommendations normally given to states at peace to end discrimination against women make little sense in this context. Nevertheless, she said the committee has urged the delegation to give priority to ending violence against women and impunity, and to peace and security.

    In this regard, she said the experts told the delegation the government should engage women at every level of dialogue in efforts to reach a political agreement to end the conflict.

    Strong recommendations

    A similar recommendation was made in regard to women in Syria. A large high-level delegation, including several women, presented the government’s report. Committee member and Rapporteur on Syria Nahla Haidar says that the committee is very concerned about attacks against civilian populations and the denial of humanitarian aid to besieged areas by all parties to the conflict.  

    She said the experts grilled the delegation on such issues as enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests of women and girls, and about physical abuse and sexual violence by government forces against women activists. She said the committee is particularly concerned about the marginalization of women’s voices in peace negotiations.

    “We have definitely also put a lot, a lot, a lot of emphasis on women, peace and security because everyone knows that Syrian women’s voices were not properly integrated and heard in the peace talks that took place in Switzerland," said Haidar. "We felt that the opportunity of addressing other women’s views, other political views of women and very important competencies of Syrian women that could make a difference in the negotiation and for the future of Syria was not addressed.”  

    Haidar said the committee also addressed root causes of some of the problems in Syria. She noted the experts are concerned that Syria’s new constitution places women under religious rule, a situation that did not exist under the previous constitution. She said the experts touched on problems of trafficking and exploitation of women in conflict.

    The committee has asked the Syrian delegation to come back in a year to respond to these and other concerns.

     

     

     

     

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora