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

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs