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

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

What Happens When Americans Eat What They Tweet

You are what you tweet, according to new maps that show a correlation between obesity and tweeting about high-fat foods More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs