Gender-based violence in armed conflicts and gendered effects of post-pandemic economic recovery
By Dr. Hedy Fry, OSCE PA Special Representative on Gender Issues
As we commemorate 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, the multifaceted challenges women face in the OSCE region are exacerbated by the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine. The gendered economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to jeopardize the economic security and well-being of women throughout the OSCE region. At the same time, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has added another layer of crisis that is having profound effects on women’s safety and wellbeing.
It is worrisome that women are still significantly underrepresented in peace and security processes. According to the United Nations, in 1992–2019, women constituted only 13% of negotiators, 6% of mediators and 6% of signatories in major peace processes worldwide, reaching 23% of representation as conflict party negotiators or delegates in all UN-led or co-led peace processes in 2020, which then declined to 19% in 2021. In view of the ongoing war in Ukraine and its gendered impact on women, women’s participation in safety and security negotiations, mediation and de-escalation processes is ever more important.
The majority of the more than 7 million refugees from Ukraine are women who face unique and additional challenges of war, such as food insecurity, lack of prenatal and postpartum care, sexual exploitation and violence. Gendered aspects of the challenges and crimes committed against women should be documented to hold perpetrators accountable and to make sure women are provided with everything they need to ensure their safety, physical and mental well-being, especially sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as recovery from the trauma of war.
The lack of women’s representation in key decision-making roles stands in contrast to the clear value of their perspectives and leadership during the gendered crises. As UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous has said, “Systemic, gendered crises require systemic, gendered solutions”. I urge OSCE participating States to take concrete steps to ensure women’s equal representation in key decision-making processes on peace, security and economic recovery. It is time for each of us to act in our respective capacities.
In my role as the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Special Representative on Gender Issues, I presented an extensive analysis of the gendered effects of COVID-19 pandemic in my 2022 report Ensuring a Gender-Inclusive Economic Recovery from the Covid-19 Pandemic. At the 29th OSCE PA Annual Session, together with fellow parliamentarians, we adopted a Resolution on Combating Violence against Women Journalists and Politicians. The resolution recalled UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, as well as subsequent resolutions calling for full participation of women in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. It also urged participating States to adopt national action plans on women, peace and security. In addition to this, in order to ensure the exchange of best practices and ideas for the advancement of gender equality in the OSCE region, this year, I established the OSCE PA informal gender network. This network aims to encourage the active participation of both women and men parliamentarians in identifying gender issues and advancing gender equality in the OSCE region.
Despite the challenges of post-pandemic economic recovery and ongoing war, we must not lose sight of the importance of gender equality and gender-based analysis. Unfortunately, in situations of crises, it is often gender-related issues that become neglected first. This, in turn, can cause severe consequences, not only for gender equality in a given context, but for democracies in general.
To address this issue, targeted co-operation between the OSCE Secretariat, ODIHR and other OSCE institutions and field operations, as well as relevant stakeholders including international organizations, relevant authorities of OSCE participating States, civil society and experts in the field, is key.
More specifically, I call on OSCE participating States to incorporate an intersectional gender lens into policy approaches to pandemic recovery and in the documentation of the effects of armed conflicts, and to take concrete steps to ensure women’s equal representation in peace and security processes. At the same time, I urge the relevant OSCE structures to raise awareness of these issues in line with their respective mandates. I further call on relevant OSCE stakeholders to promote gender perspectives in their policy and programmatic activities and to implement sound policies aimed at improving gender equality in the region.
For more information on the work of the OSCE PA’s Special Representative on Gender Issues, please click here.
More information on the 16 Days of Activism campaign is available here.