Finally, Rape Classified as “War Tactic” By UN Security Council

June 20, 2008 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Via Le Monde, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1820 (full text in pdf) at the end of a debate on "women, peace and security" presided by US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Let me quote a few chosen excerpts from this important resolution. The resolution

"1. Stresses that sexual violence, when used or commissioned as a tactic of war in order to deliberately target civilians or as a part of a widespread or systematic attack against civilian populations, can significantly exacerbate situations of armed conflict and may impede the restoration of international peace and security. (…)

2. Demands the immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians with immediate effect. (…)

3. Demands that all parties to armed conflict immediately take appropriate measures to protect civilians, including women and girls, from all forms of sexual violence. (…)

4. Notes that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide, stresses the need for the exclusion of sexual violence crimes from amnesty provisions in the context of conflict resolution processes. (…)

7. Requests the Secretary-General to continue and strengthen efforts to implement the policy of zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations peacekeeping operations. (…)

10. Requests the Secretary-General and relevant United Nations agencies, inter alia, through consultation with women and women-led organizations as appropriate, to develop effective mechanisms for providing protection from violence, including in particular sexual violence, to women and girls in and around UN managed refugee and internally displaced persons camps. (…)

12. Urges the Secretary-General and his Special Envoys to invite women to participate in discussions pertinent to the prevention and resolution of conflict, the maintenance of peace and security, and post-conflict peacebuilding."

This is very strong language. The resolution also includes the possibility of deferring suspects of sexual violence in war to the International Criminal Court.

This resolution is late but it is welcome and necessary. According to Dutch General Patrick Cammaert, who used to command UN missions in Ethiopia and Erythrea, it is more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in war situations. Systematic sexual violence as war strategy has been well established and documented in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Liberia, Darfur and the DRC. In this last country, a recent study showed that over 2000 women surveyed, 75% had been raped during the civil war.

According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, violence against women has reached "pandemic proportions" in some societies in transition from civil war to peace. The Secretary General is also tasked with preparing an action plan  to collect information regarding sexual violence in current conflicts and transmit that information to the Security Council.

So, why was there even a debate on this? According to the BBC,

"China, Russia, Indonesia and Vietnam had all expressed reservations during the negotiations, asking whether rape was really a matter for the security council."

As usual with the UN, the question will be whether the resolution will go beyond words and how it will be implemented. Indeed, the resolution imposes a lot of constraints on the states themselves to protect women and girls. But at least, there is recognition of the changing nature of armed conflicts where, according to the UN News Center,

"Council members said women and girls are consistently targeted during conflicts “as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.”

The effect is to also prolong or deepen conflicts and to exacerbate already dire security and humanitarian conditions, particularly when the perpetrators of violent crimes against women go unpunished for their actions."

Not surprisingly, human rights organization, such as Human Rights Watch, are very pleased with the resolution:

"The UN Security Council’s new resolution on sexual violence is a historic achievement for a body that has all too often ignored the plight of women and girls in conflict, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch applauds the council for setting out in the resolution a clear path to systematic information-gathering on sexual violence. Until now, the Security Council has asked for information on such violence only in selected cases."

It is a major accomplishment for women and girls in war zones. Hopefully, implementation will follow and whoever the next US Secretary of State is will not drop the ball on that one. After all, the United States was the sponsor for this resolution and there is no doubt that Secretary Rice deserves enormous credit for this. (First – and probably last – time I’ll ever praise something coming from the Bush administration!)

Posted in Gender, Global Governance, Globalization, Health, Human Rights, Mass Violence, New Wars, Patriarchy, Sexism, Social Stigma, Sociology, Structural Violence, Symbolic Violence, United Nations | 10 Comments »

10 Responses to “Finally, Rape Classified as “War Tactic” By UN Security Council”

  1.   Sydney Says:

    Absolutely about time!

    On another, completely different note, I’m a sociologist in an urban midwestern community college as well. Do you ever attend MSS (Midwest Sociological Society) or ASA (American Sociological Association–forgive the parentheses, but I’ve found that not all community college people know about these professional organizations)? ASA has a breakfast for community college instructors and I’ve been considering trying to create a little subsection of MSS for us community college folks.


  2.   SocProf Says:

    Hello Sydney,
    I will be in Boston for the ASA meeting. Will you be there as well? If so, let’s meet at that breakfast or at another time while there.

    I don’t attend the MSS as much as I should but if I have the incentive of meeting new people, that is certainly something to consider.

    I do agree that we, community college faculty, should organize better.

    I am also a member of the Global Studies Association (it’s full of sociologists and other social scientists), and it would be nice to have events specifically for community college folks.

    Hey, maybe we need a blog for community college sociologists! What do you think?


  3.   Sydney Says:

    I’ll be at the ASA breakfast! I’m a short, round, middle aged white woman with long, curly hair. Look for me! I’ll also be presiding over a roundtable about including a global perspective in our Intro. curriculum. I think there’s only one paper (not mine, by the way), so I don’t know if it will run or not. I’ve never presided at an ASA thing before!

    I’ve never done a blog before, but we probably do need one for community college sociology. Interested in doing one together? My e-mail is It might be easier to move this to an e-mail conversation.



  4.   shart Says:

    Sorry to be a pest, but I’ve just created a new blog, Sociology in Community Colleges, based on our brief conversations! It’s an edublog like this one, but just new.


  5.   SocProf Says:

    Great! What is the exact URL for the blog?


  6.   shart Says:

    I’ve never done a blog before, and I think I made a mistake when trying to set up the url. I’m guessing this will be hard to find, but I think it’s too late to change it unless I completely delete the blog and start over.


  7.   SocProf Says:

    Got it. Now, you’ve got your work cut out for you! I’ll add you to my blogroll.

    I think it is a great idea. I don’t think there is anything comparable in the sociology blogs.

    We should use the ASA meetings and CC breakfast to publicize these things. I know there will be also a session with the socbloggers (as we are known).

    You might also be interested in the website I created:

    I want it to be a resources for students and faculty, with links, concepts and theorists pages, etc. It is still under construction. Let me know if you want to become part of it, then, I can add you as contributor and you can have your page and create pages on sociological topics you care about.


  8.   shart Says:

    I’d love to be a part of it!


  9.   Bayu Says:

    hello, i’m Bayu a sociology student from Indonesia. i think this topic was very important for me. i didn’t see civil war in here, but many Indonesian women still have complicated problems. for instance, they’re didn’t like school because norms in our society get part of it.


  10.   SocProf Says:

    Bayu, as you probably know, during the conflict in East Timor, the Indonesian forces committed mass rapes against Timorese women.

    Can you explain what you said about women not liking school?

    Are you a student at an Indonesian university?


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