Top Ten Gender and Security Issues of 2014

The following are some of the most important issues that arose at the intersection of gender, security, and the law in 2014.

1. Awareness of the use of sexualized violence against Guantanamo detainees as evidenced by the Senate Torture Report (here) and specifically highlighting the use of “rectal feedings” which may meet the legal definition for rape under international criminal law.

2. Continued attentiveness to the kidnapping and disappearance of scores of young Nigerian girls from Chibok in Borno State by Boko Haram.

3. Maintaining the momentum of justice for sexual violence cases before the ICC, given the outcome in the Katanga case in which the accused was acquitted of all charges related to sexual and gender based violence. While some impetus has been regained by the Ntaganda case before the Pre-Trial Chamber, in which for the very first time all charges for sexual and gender-based crimes were upheld, it remains to be seen if the ICC can deliver gender justice for women.

4. Consciousness of the continued erosion of the civilian category under international humanitarian law, specifically the prevailing assumptions in many settings that young to middle aged men are presumptive combatants, thereby stripping them of meaningful protection as civilians.

5. The continued exclusion of women representatives from peacemaking and mediation efforts, cogently illustrated by the marked ouster of women from various attempts to address the Syrian and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.

6. Tackling impunity for ongoing acts of sexual and other violence perpetrated against women in military settings, including but not limited to the US military. Recognition of the persistent campaign within the US Congress led by Kristin Gillbrand and others, to reform the military justice process so that these cases are adjudicated on their merits rather than through the exercise of command influence.

7. Addressing sexual violence against men in conflict and post-conflict settings, and expanding the vocabulary of harm to include violence experienced by men as part of gendering the peace and security landscape. A 2012 Report by Human Rights Watch on sexual violence against men in Syrian custodial settings highlights the move to including the vulnerability of men in our awareness of gendered harms perpetrated during wartime.

8. Giving necessary attention to the ways in which sustained and systematic assaults on women’s rights and women’s bodies function as an early warning system on the emergence of violent, extremist and oppressive movements such as ISIS.

9. Addressing the role of female combatants in both traditional state militaries and non-state militias and acknowledging that women engage in sustained military activities in multiple settings. Such recognition has implications for gendering counter-terrrorism strategies as well engaging fully with the rights of women as combatants during war and in Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) processes at the end of hostilities.

10. Recognizing the importance of the equal status of women and girls as creating the conditions conducive to the maintenance of peaceful and productive societies, best evidenced by the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai. 

About the Author(s)

Fionnuala Ní Aoláin

U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism; This article is written in the author's personal and academic capacity; Robina Chair in Law, Public Policy, and Society at the University of Minnesota Law School; Professor of Law at the University of Ulster’s Transitional Justice Institute in Belfast, Northern Ireland; Follow her on Twitter (@NiAolainF).