24 October 2022
On 22 and 23 October, the European Union Rule of Law (EULEX) has supported the Women, Peace and Security Forum 2022, organized by the Office of the President of Kosovo.
The first edition of the Forum has brought leaders, experts, academics, civil society representatives, influencers, youth and other groups of interest together to discuss the important nexus among women, peace and security.
As part of the Mission’s commitment to supporting Kosovo institutions in the fight against sexual violence, on 23 October, the EULEX’s Head, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, moderated the panel discussion “The plague of violence against women during wars and the aftermath”.
The panel included a very diverse and experienced group of speakers, namely the Permanent Representative of Finland to the Council of Europe, Nina Nordstrom, the Deputy Minister of Justice, Nita Shala, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women its causes and consequences, Dubravka Šimonović, the Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, Tanya Domi, the Former Program Director at NGO Women’s Rights, Tijana Simic LaValley and the Executive Director in Kosovar Gender Studies Center, Luljeta Demolli.
The EULEX’s Head opened the floor for discussion recalling the importance of instruments such as the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, and the Women, Peace and Security agenda in protecting and advancing women’s rights and gender equality.
Wigemark highlighted that gender issues are on top of the European Union’s agenda. “We have a Gender Action Plan and I would like to highlight that, within that EU’s framework a lot of work is being done; there are many projects that are launched”, adding how more can be done by further mainstreaming these issues.
The Permanent Representative of Finland to the Council of Europe, Nina Nordstrom, opened the discussion by congratulating Kosovo for having included provisions of the Istanbul Convention into its Constitution. “The Istanbul Convention is indeed a legally binding instrument, which is important also from a Women, Peace and Security point of view. We can put more flesh on the bones of the Women, Peace and Security agenda by bringing legally binding standards. And it functions; it delivers; it saves lives of women and children.”
Nordstrom further pointed out that, overall, there has been a real improvement in the implementation of the convention in providing specialist services to victims, such as medical support, forensic examinations, storage of DNA, or counselling.
Dubravka Šimonović recalled how, during her time as UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women its causes and consequences, she focused on implementation tools and strategies of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women and peace and security.
She also produced a thematic report on rape as a human rights violation, as a war crime, and as a violation of international criminal and humanitarian law, thus developing a model on the prosecution of rape.
“During that time, I saw how important it is to have a voice. I have addressed the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, but what I have also seen is that a voice is not enough. I have put forward recommendations, reports, but they were not followed up,” Šimonović said, adding how “In addition to a voice, we need to come together, we need to join forces and we need to find the right recommendations to proceed with implementation of all those instruments that we have developed.”
The Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, Tanya Domi, commented on the current, worrisome state of women globally: “There’s a growing feature of this domestic oppression and also there is a wave of terror against women; and the second group of women in jeopardy are LGBTQ.”
According to Domi, the CEDAW doesn’t prevent atrocities: “One of the things that I see is a gap in the human rights dimension in atrocity prevention. And I bring this up at this time because of the terror that is being inflicted,” Domi pointed out.
The Deputy Minister of Justice, Nita Shala highlighted that women suffer a disproportional burden by wars, particularly with regards to the issue of violence against them.
“Serving as a National Coordinator for Domestic Violence, I think it is of value to provide an institutional perspective on interventions on preventing and addressing violence against women in Kosovo, and the challenges ahead in relation to this essential public policy goal,” Shala stated, adding how “It is a well-documented phenomenon that post-conflict communities experience higher rates of domestic violence.”
Shala also pointed out that “Recognizing the severity of phenomenon of domestic violence and the reasons behind it, our efforts have been channelled in order to ensure that legal but also cultural and support service frameworks are strengthened with the capacity to provide an effective and victim-focused response to domestic violence.”
Talking about sexual violence cases, the Executive Director of the Kosovar Gender Studies Center, Luljeta Demolli, stated that, after the war in Kosovo, sexual violence cases against women were not being given adequate attention.
“These cases were not openly discussed for a long time. This silence has a nexus with the consequences that we see today in our society. Now, these cases are being discussed but it is very hard to see that, when after 23 years women who were raped during the war testify about what happened to them, they become retraumatized,” Demolli said.
Discussing all forms of violence against women and the lack of inclusion of women in all parts of society, the former Program Director at NGO Women’s Rights, Tijana Simic LaValley stated: “What I always like to emphasize, in these forums and everywhere else, is that there is a huge correlation among women in negotiation, gender-based violence, women in economy and social affairs. There is a huge correlation between those factors and components. We cannot talk about gender-based violence and not work holistically on these other things as well,” Simic LaValley said, adding how “There has been progress, but we need more women in negotiations, because, as so many empirical evidences show, there can be no peace without the involvement of women.”
In conclusion, all panel speakers agreed that there is a noticeable gap between the existing international conventions and the reality on the ground, and it is imperative to include women at the table where decisions and policies about them and for them are made.
To further support the Women, Peace and Security Forum, EULEX produced a creative installation to raise awareness among young girls and encourage them to aspire to become leaders in the rule of law. Dozens of youngsters joined the initiative and took beautiful photos.
The Mission also joined the social media campaign organized by the European Union Office in Kosovo, featuring the EULEX’s Head message: "Victims of sexual and gender-based violence in Kosovo are mostly women and girls. The Women, Peace, and Security Agenda calls for prevention and protection from such violence and effective redress to victims. The assistance that EULEX is giving to Kosovo institutions in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence is a major component of our Mission’s commitment to implement the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda and to promote gender equality."
Link to full discussion: https://www.facebook.com/PresidencaRKS/videos/614158610495745