Saturday, November 28, 2009

How to End Violence?

So much of what we international lawyers do is aimed at preventing, ending, or responding to violence. Wouldn't it be lovely to make that aspect of our jobs obsolete?
Unfortunately, as illustrated by IntLawGrrls' numerous writings on the subject (including Naomi's post earlier today), violence—by states, by groups, by individuals—endures as a pervasive plague in almost every society. International legal organizations, states, and the lawyers who assist them try to prevent or constrain state violence through norms on aggression and the use of force, the conduct of war or armed conflict, human rights violations, or international crimes. But many civilians also experience violence perpetrated by non-state actors (insurgent groups, paramilitary units, terrorists, and family members). Often, they are targeted, at least in part, because of their gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, or other status.

Gender-Based Violence
This week marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25 November; prior post). Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (on whom we’ve posted here), issued a statement outlining plans for her mandate. Manjoo called for “timely and focused attention” on three themes:
►reparations to women for wrongs committed in contexts of peace, conflict, post-conflict and transitional justice settings;
►prevention strategies including those which promote women’s empowerment and engagement in challenging patriarchal interpretations of norms, values and rights; and
►multiple, intersecting and aggravated forms of discrimination affecting women and leading to increased levels of violence and limitation or denial of their human rights.

Roles of Men
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued parallel statements to mark the day as well. Interestingly, one of his statements focused on the roles of men in ending violence against women. The statement recognizes that men and boys must also be engaged, committed, and involved in efforts to end gender-based violence. Secretary-General Ban announced the launching of a network of male leaders charged with taking proactive steps, in collaboration with existing women’s organizations, to address gender-based violence. The new network is part of the “UNiTE to End Violence Against Women” initiative he launched in 2008.

As I launch this Network, I call on men and boys everywhere to join us. Break the silence. When you witness violence against women and girls, do not sit back. Act. Advocate. Unite to change the practices and attitudes that incite, perpetrate and condone this violence. Violence against women and girls will not be eradicated until all of us – men and boys – refuse to tolerate it….

According to a UN Press release,

he cited positive actions that men are already taking, such as judges whose decisions have paved the way for fighting abuse in the workplace, networks of men who counsel male perpetrators of violence, and national leaders who have publicly committed to leading the movement of men to break the silence.

Such efforts must begin early and locally in homes, schools, religious and community institutions. Educators and community activists must work with young people to build cross-gender and cross-cultural understanding, respect, and non-violent approaches to problem-solving. National governments must prevent the economic, social, and cultural rights violations that intersect with the causes and consequences of violence. And, at the international level, political and military leaders, diplomats, and multinational business leaders also must show that they, too, can learn such lessons. They can do so by promoting and adhering to laws against aggression, the threat or use of weapons of mass destruction, targeting of civilian populations, and the reckless trade in small arms.

(Photo: Leymah Glowee, Liberian peacebuilding activist and a subject of the documentary film, "Pray the Devil Back to Hell," about women peace activists. Photo Credit: Robin Holland.)

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