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UNsupported report says women have little access to peace negotiations

While women are widely recognized as effective agents of peace, they still have little access to power and peace negotiations, two experts appointed by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) said in a new report released today. The report, Progress of the World’s Women 2002: The Independent Experts’ Assessment on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Women’s Role in Peace-building, documents a growing trend towards targeting innocents in war. All civilians are targeted, but the gender-based violence that has characterized ethnic and internal conflicts in the past decade has overwhelmingly hit women and girls, according to the report. “Women’s bodies have become a battleground over which opposing forces struggle,” the report says. “Women are raped as a way to humiliate male relatives who are often forced to watch the assault.” In societies where ethnicity is inherited through the male line, enemy women are raped and forced to bear children, the report points out. “Women who are already pregnant are forced to miscarry through violent attacks, and women are kidnapped and used as sexual slaves to service troops.” In a statement today, UNIFEM said the experts had examined the progress made in implementing a Security Council resolution on the role of women, peace and security and had found compelling new evidence that woman and girls are singled out for atrocities with few consequences for perpetrators. The report says the Council resolution has given legitimacy to women’s struggle for peace as well as their success in organizing networks across borders and helping to prevent conflicts. Calling for a redefinition of global security with a focus on human dimensions, UNIFEM Executive Director Noeleen Heyzer said the report demonstrated that security has been almost exclusively defined in military terms. “Women insist on a broader vision, one which puts human life and human rights at the forefront,” she said. The report was written by and Elisabeth Rehn, the former Minister of Defence and Equality Affairs of Finland and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Liberian and member of the Africa Union Panel of Eminent Persons which investigated the genocide in Rwanda.

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