USA: Peace Through Gender

Saturday, January 7, 2012
Boston Globe
North America
United States of America
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

IN 2002, women in Liberia helped bring an end to one of Africa's bloodiest wars by staging a series of peace protests — including a boycott on having sex with their husbands. In 1996, a female political party in Northern Ireland helped push for an end to sectarian violence.

Citing this history of female peacemaking, the Obama administration has issued the first-ever US national action plan aimed at ensuring that women — who are so often disproportionately victimized by war — are also included in efforts to broker peace.

It's a laudable idea, and it is important that the various branches of the US government follow through to make this idea a reality. The plan calls for more women to be appointed to senior positions at the United Nations, for more female military officers to be involved in peacekeeping, and for the Pentagon, the State Department, and the Agency for International Development to listen harder to the voices of women in conflict zones.

The effort is a good start on what will surely be a long road to ensure that women take a place at the table to help stop it. But the efforts also highlight an embarrassing failure on women's rights: The United States is among a tiny handful of countries — including Sudan, Iran, and Somalia — that have not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, often called an international bill of women's rights.

It's true that some countries that have accepted the convention don't seem to take it very seriously; Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, for instance, are both parties to it. But the US Senate's failure to ratify it sends the world a mixed message about where America stands on women's rights.