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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More