Posts Tagged ‘Gerard J. DeGroot’

“GENDER WEEK” AT NATO

July 2, 2015
U.S. Army Major Rhonda Newsome from the CJTF 76 Surgeon Cell treats an Afghan women during a village medical outreach at Kandahar City, Afghanistan, January 28, 2006. U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Leslie Angulo. National Archives and Records Administration.

U.S. Army Major Rhonda Newsome from the CJTF 76 Surgeon Cell treats an Afghan women during a village medical outreach at Kandahar City, Afghanistan, January 28, 2006. U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Leslie Angulo. National Archives and Records Administration.

The first week of June was “Gender Week” at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. More than 120 participants representing NATO nations, military and civilian organizations, and NATO partners examined and discussed the findings of a report called “UNSCR 1325 Reload.” The report details efforts by NATO nations to implement the recommendations of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for increased involvement of women in conflict prevention, peace talks, and initiatives to prevent gender violence during wars. UNSCR 1325 was spearheaded by Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Namibia’s Minister of Women’s Affairs, and UN members adopted it in October 2000. Unfortunately, the UN has no authority to enforce the resolution. It is up to individual nations to make Resolution 1325 a priority.

“UNSCR 1325 Reload” noted that as of 2013, the final year of the study:

* Women made up approximately 10 percent of the militaries of NATO nations

* 93 percent of NATO nations had equal enlistment processes for men and women

* About half of NATO members had departments or positions dedicated to facilitating gender integration

* 43 percent of NATO nations have gender advisers in their militaries

* Countries with highest representations of women in their militaries are Hungary at 20.3 percent, the U.S. at 18 percent, and Latvia at 16.5 percent.

Due to a lack of available data, the report does not offer findings on sexual assault prevention.

That so many NATO nations appear to be taking 1325 to heart is encouraging, but will increasing the numbers of women in NATO armed forces transform the military and wartime cultures that inspire violence against women? Even when servicewomen are trained in combat tactics and weapons handling like their male counterparts, observers sometimes still emphasize the importance of the “feminine” qualities that women soldiers bring to a war zone. In a discussion about UN women peacekeepers in Liberia, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stated, “What a woman brings to the task is extra sensitivity, more caring. I think that these are the characteristics that come from being a mother, taking care of a family, being concerned about children, managing the home.”[1] Gerard J. DeGroot, a history professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and an expert on women in the military, said, “Any conflict where you have an all-male army, it’s like a holiday from reality. If you inject women into that situation, they do have a civilizing effect.”[2]

Meant to affirm women’s peacekeeping roles, DeGroot and Sirleaf’s comments actually enforce the gender divisions that make war zones and post-conflict situations particularly dangerous spaces for women. Afghanistan offers a disturbing case study: Efforts to increase the numbers of Afghan women in security forces have led to the murders of policewomen because of a cultural opposition to women working outside the home, especially in the police and security fields. If we are talking about gender, we need to consider men, sexuality, and culture, not just women’s roles.

[1] Doreen Carvajal, “A Female Approach to Peacekeeping,” New York Times, Mar. 5, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/06/world/africa/06iht-ffpeace.html

[2] Ibid.

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