Women, peace and security: In search of leadership for Asia
October-December 2013
By: Kamala Chandrakirana

Gone are the days when rape during times of armed conflict could be dismissed as the unavoidable price of war, with women treated as passive victims. In the past 13 years, the United Nations Security Council has approved six resolutions that call on states to end impunity on sexual violence in armed conflict, prevent all forms of violence against women and increase participation of women at all decision-making levels for the prevention, management and resolution of conflict. The first one, UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, was passed by unanimous vote in 2000. This and the five subsequent resolutions were also directed at the United Nations itself, including international peacekeeping forces and civilian staff deployed in conflict areas around the world.

The momentum towards global recognition of women’s distinct experiences in war and the international commitment to women’s human rights began during the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, whose 20th anniversary was this year. At this conference, nations expressed their dismay at the systematic rape of women A woman being publicly flogged in Indonesia’s Aceh province. in war situations and called for perpetrators of massive violations of human rights to be punished.

The international criminal tribunals set up for genocide and crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda fulfilled this call when rapists and their commanders were tried and sentenced, creating precedent-setting international jurisprudence on rape and other forms of sexual violence. By 1998, such breakthroughs were further codified in international law, namely through the Statute of the International Criminal Court. In Asia, six countries have ratified this statute: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Philippines, South Korea and Timor-Leste. Indonesia made a commitment to ratify but has not delivered so far. Two years after the statute was adopted in Rome (thus being called the “Rome Statute”), the Security Council produced its first resolution on women, peace and security.

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