Judicial reform needed for women in post-conflict areas, UN report says

11 March 2005 – War breaks out in certain countries because of a perception of a lack of justice by large segments of the population and women feel that burden of injustice even more keenly than men both before and after the conflict, the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and a lawyers' group say in a report calling for a UN structure to assist post-war justice systems.

The report, "Peace Needs Women and Women Need Justice," has been submitted to the Security Council. It is based on a three-day conference on "best practices" sponsored by UNIFEM and the Stockholm-based International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) last September.

The vulnerabilities of women are dramatically increased during conflict and, more than that, their rights are seriously violated, or largely ignored, it says.

These concerns have already been discussed and reported, it says. What is needed now is "the establishment of a high-level mechanism to determine what issues and recommendations raised at the conference require follow-up action by the UN system as a whole, as well as by Member States, regional organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other relevant actors."

Joint action could be undertaken by the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to spearhead or support the establishment of that mechanism, which could then address the need for a "dedicated structure" in the UN to coordinate assistance for justice systems, with an agreed methodology.

Conference participants included women from such areas of pre-independence or continuing conflict as Afghanistan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia, Namibia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Timor-Leste.

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