Women and security sector reform
In DRC, women and children are the most affected by the conflict; nearly 75% of refugees and IDPs are women and children. They are victims of physical and sexual assaults used as a weapon of war. So, in this context, the gender issue must play a central role in security sector reform.
One of the best strategies to be used for the daily safety of women, girls and boys, is the qualitative transformation of institutions, policies and people responsible for collective and individual security – under the theme “Security Sector Reform, SSR”.
In this respect, the UN International Research and Training Institute for Women’s Progress (UN-INSTRAW) defines SSR as the “transformation of security institutions or systems (including the Government, the troops, the police, intelligence services, judiciary and criminal systems, etc.) in order to get them to play an effective, legitimate, democratic and responsible role in providing security to individuals and communities”.
Security Sector Reform, under the gender approach, is therefore a long-term process, to be initiated and backed by local communities and as well as civil governance structures. The objective of the reform will be the establishment of an efficient, and transparent security sector accountable for its actions, and monitored by civilians who ensure the security and well-being of women, men, girls and boys.
In this regard, MONUSCO Gender office, in partnership with the Congolese National Police (PNC) and the UN Civilian Police (UNPOL) contribute their expertise to the work of the PNC Joint Follow-Up Committee and of the Work Group for Child Protection and fight against Sexual Violence. Gender Office therefore ensures capacity-building and sensitization of security staff in aspects relating to gender and special treatment for gender-based victims. Moreover, the Gender Office works in collaboration with MONUSCO Force Commander’s Office in incorporating gender considerations into the training programme for MILOBS, contingents and military administrative staff. This collaboration includes efforts for the integration of gender into the training programmes for FARDC. The key objective envisaged in both cases is to reinforce women’s representation/participation within PNC and FARDC and to improve overall working conditions.
Surveys made by the Gender office on women’s status within PNC have led to a better understanding of the obstacles and challenges confronting women within the police force. The Gender office also continues to provide its technical support to the development of training programmes and updating of PNC-specific modules. As highlighted by UN Secretary-General’s report on the Resolution 1325 of 16 September 2000, MONUSCO Gender office encourages the incorporation of the gender perspectives into the draft law for the PNC at national and provincial levels, with a quota of 30% of positions reserved for women.
Women in the DRC Constitution
The Gender office ensures, in collaboration with its partners, that gender perspectives are integrated into draft laws before they are enacted.
Likewise, the law on voters’ identification and registration took into account the gender considerations and the draft Constitution also ensured that Congolese women fully participate in the electoral process like any other citizen.
The 2003 Transition Constitution already set out Government’s responsibilities: to ensure that all forms of discrimination against women are eliminated and women’s rights are respected. Its article 51 also set out the Government’s responsibility to take all necessary actions in order to ensure full participation of women in the development of the country in all sectors. The article also specified that women should be significantly represented within national, provincial and local institutions and the Government will take appropriate action to fight all forms of violence against women in public as well as private sectors.
When the final copy of the Constitution was promulgated on 16 February 2006, similar provisions were included in the Human Rights, Fundamental Liberties and the Citizen’s and Government’s responsibilities. Article 14 sets out that it is Government’s responsibility to ensure that “all forms of discrimination against women are eliminated and their rights are protected and promoted. ﴾…﴿ in all sectors of life ﴾…﴿, to take appropriate action to ensure their full development and participation to their country’s development. ﴾…﴿ and to take action to fight all forms of violence against women in the public and private sectors of public life.”
A fair representation of women in public institutions is guaranteed through the implementation of men and women’s parity within the said institutions.
Article 15 of the Constitution urges Government to work for the elimination of sexual violence establishes as a crime against humanity punishable by the law “any act of sexual violence against any person, with the intention of destabilising, breaking up family and eliminating an entire population.”
Laws 06/018 and 06/019 of 20 July 2006 set out the modalities for the implementation of the above mentioned rights, thus amending and complementing the Code and Congolese Criminal Procedure through the integration of the rules of international humanitarian law on sexual violence offences. This represents considerable progress given that before the adoption of the new laws, the Congolese Criminal Code did not define rape and described as indecent assault any form of sexual violence without penetration. To date, the amendments made, inter alia, include male rape victims, clarify the offence of sexual violence and define new forms of violence liable to criminal sanctions.
In light of the new context, the Gender Office in collaboration with other MONUSCO sections focused its action on the training of male and female actors of human rights, justice and penitentiary sectors in DRC.
Training workshops on gender, peace and justice were very productive in so far as it reflected on the current obstacles: lack of political will in the judiciary regarding the laws of 2006 on sexual violence, and interference by the executive and or judiciary powers in judiciary matters. From the victims’ point of view, the major challenges to overcome are ignorance of the law, geographic distance, and lack of financial resources to facilitate access to justice, fears for reprisals… Broad dissemination and sensitisation of the law on sexual violence is the first step in a strategy designed to protect victims and to put an end to impunity. The community therefore adopts a major role in accompanying, whistle blowing, securing, fighting stigmatisation and installing counselling offices for the victims in collaboration with justice.