Welcome to the
The Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice is an international women's human rights organisation that advocates for gender justice through the International Criminal Court (ICC) and through domestic mechanisms, including peace negotiations and justice processes. We work with women most affected by the conflict situations under investigation by the ICC.
The Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice works in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Kenya, Libya and Kyrgyzstan.
Welcome to the June 2012 issue of Women's Voices, our regular eLetter from the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice. In Women's Voices, we provide updates and analysis on political developments, the pursuit of justice and accountability, the participation of women in peace talks and reconciliation efforts from the perspective of women's rights activists within armed conflict situations, specifically those countries under investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) including Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Darfur, the Central African Republic (CAR), Kenya, Libya and Côte d'Ivoire.
In addition to Women's Voices, we also produce a regular legal eLetter, Legal Eye on the ICC, with summaries and gender analysis of judicial decisions and other legal developments at the International Criminal Court (ICC), and discussion of legal issues arising from victims' participation before the Court, particularly as these issues relate to the prosecution of gender-based crimes in each of the Situations under investigation by the ICC.
More information about the work of the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice and previous issues of Women's Voices and Legal Eye on the ICC can be found on our website www.iccwomen.org.
The Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice has launched a new video feature on our website.
The first film to be made available is Our Plea, a gender justice video exposing the attacks of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) on communities in the Central African Republic (CAR). Produced by the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice and our local CAR partner, JUPEDEC, in collaboration with WITNESS, the film features the testimonies of two young women abducted by the LRA in South-Eastern CAR. The video was launched on 30 May with a screening for the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
Our Plea is part of a series of six films produced in the framework of the video advocacy initiative launched in 2010 between the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice and WITNESS. The videos in this series include No Longer Silent (Northern Uganda) and Our Voices Matter (DRC).
■ Check our website for new videos.
■ Read the press release on the launch of Our Plea.
On 7 March 2012, Ms Awadia Ajabna was fatally shot by an officer of the Public Order Police in Eldeem, a neighbourhood of Khartoum. The incident took place at night, when a Public Order Police patrol stopped and arrested Ms Ajabna's brother in front of their house, accusing him of being drunk. Following the arrest, neighbours and family members gathered at the house, and the police reportedly responded by beating bystanders and firing into the crowd. Ms Ajabna was shot in the chest and head. She later died in hospital as result of the injuries. Following this incident, several demonstrations protesting the actions of the Public Order Police took place in Khartoum, especially in Eldeem and in some areas of Elsahafah.
The Public Order Police are responsible for monitoring compliance of and enforcing the Public Order Act. Issued by the Khartoum State Governor in 1996, this Act refers to specific articles of the 1991 Criminal Act, particularly Article 151 and 152 and contains provisions classifying certain behaviour and clothing as 'indecent'. The Act also contains provisions on sexual violence, adultery and sodomy. Women's human rights advocates in Sudan and internationally have strongly criticised the Public Order Act for providing a very limited and vague definition of 'indecency' and for being used as a tool to harass women. The Act, together with Article 149 of the Criminal Act on rape, is the focus of the law reform campaign to advance the legal status of women in Sudan initiated by the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice and its Sudanese partners.
A police statement about the incident in which Ms Ajabna was killed states that the Public Order Police stopped and arrested two drunken individuals during a routine patrol in the Eldeem neighbourhood around midnight. The report also states that during the arrest one of the two persons started shouting, which alerted family members and neighbours. The police statement alleges that some of the bystanders attacked the police with sticks and bars, and that the police commander fired a shot in the air to disperse the crowd.
The police report about the incident has been criticised by Ms Ajabna's family, arguing that it does not accurately reflect the events that led to her death and that it contains false allegations. It has been reported that the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Services have banned any independent news coverage of this incident, unless it was based on the official police report. The day after the incident, Ms Ajabna's family received a visit and a verbal apology from the Minister of Interior and the Governor of Khartoum State. During this visit, the family presented eye witnesses, who told the two government officials that, contrary to the police report, it was the police who started attacking the crowd. The family also requested an official apology from the police and the prosecution of the officer who killed Ms Ajabna.
Women's human rights groups in Sudan and internationally have reacted with outrage to the shooting of Ms Ajabna. The No to the Oppression of Women initiative — a group composed of women's human rights and peace activists, journalists, lawyers, and politicians formed following the 2009 'Trouser Trial' — has declared its support for her family and celebrated International Women's Day with them.
Ms Nagat Bushr, a psychologist, women's human rights defender, member of No to the Oppression of Women initiative, and one of Women's Initiatives' partners in Sudan, said: 'The Government should take Awadia's killing seriously and immediately suspend the armed Public Order Police from operating inside the neighbourhoods. No compromises or threats to Awadia's family should be made, and impunity should be lifted to enable the prosecution of the officer who was leading the patrol'. She added that Ms Ajabna's killing united and galvanised women's human rights defenders in Sudan. 'We will continue our efforts and campaigns against the Public Order Law and all laws discriminating against women,' concluded Ms Bushr.
The support expressed by women's human rights defenders for Ms Ajabna's family was not well received by the Government. In a speech on 17 March addressed to women of the National Congress Party Consultative Forum, Dr Nafie Ali Nafie, President Al'Bashir's Assistant and Vice-President of the National Congress Party Affairs, while not referring to a specific incident, spoke out against women activists, who, he alleged, are employed by Western embassies and the UN to carry out subversive activities within the community.
Commenting on Ms Ajabna's shooting, Amira Khair, Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice Sudan Programme Officer, said: 'The police and the Government need to immediately start transparent and independent investigations into this case and prosecute the officer responsible for the death of Awadia. Awadia is another innocent victim of the Public Order Act', Ms Khair added. 'The Government needs to start a serious process to reform the laws that openly discriminate against women, including this Act and Article 149 of the Criminal Act on rape and sexual violence.'
Ms Khair also expressed concern regarding the situation of women's human rights defenders, particularly in light of the recent statements by key government officials from the ruling party. 'Dr Nafie's statements on women's human rights advocates are an indication of the Government's attitude towards them. We are concerned about the possibility of retaliations against those who supported Awadia's family. We will closely monitor the developments in this case,' Ms Khair said.
■ Read more about the Public Order Act and its consequences for women in Women's Voices March 2010.
On 14 July 2011, the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) and the Sudanese Government signed the Darfur Doha Peace Document (DDPD), following protracted peace negotiations regarding the conflict in Darfur. The DDPD contains seven chapters dealing with: human rights and fundamental freedoms; power-sharing and the administrative status of Darfur; wealth sharing, compensation and the return of IDPs and refugees; justice and reconciliation; permanent ceasefire and final security arrangements; mechanisms for international dialogue and modalities for consultation; and implementation.
Despite having participated in the peace talks, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) did not sign the document. The Abdel Wahid Noor and Mini Minawi factions did not take part in the negotiations or sign the July peace agreement. JEM had requested that the text be opened for discussion, arguing that the DDPD is solely based on the views of the Government and the LJM, but the Khartoum Government has refused.
In a statement delivered on 21 October 2011, Amin Hassan Omer, a former Government negotiator currently in charge of the implementation of the Doha peace agreement, said that the three groups that did not sign the DDPD could always join the peace document at a later stage. In his statement, Dr Amin did not make any reference to the three-month deadline for non-signatories to join the DDPD set by presidential adviser in charge of Darfur-related issues, Ghazi Salah Al-Deen, during the signing ceremony in July. Dr Amin added that 'we will extend our hands to the non-signatory movements if they desire peace without opening the document again for negotiations'.
Although women's human rights, participation in public life, and empowerment are mentioned in the DDPD, there is no specific section dedicated to the gender aspects of the peace agreement and its implementation. Moreover, the DDPD does not put in place any mechanism to monitor the implementation of the gender-related issues mentioned by the agreement. Women were not included in the peace talks that led to the signing of the agreement, and did not receive sufficient information once the agreement was signed about its existence, content and possible impact on their lives.
Following the signing of the DDPD, the Women's Initiatives conducted a survey in South Darfur and distributed 296 questionnaires to women to gather information about their knowledge of and views on the DDPD. Respondents to the survey included students, self-identified 'housewives', women's human rights activists, and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The results of the survey indicate that 82% of the displaced women who were interviewed stated that they had not received any information about the DDPD nor the agreements it contained. Some of the women interviewed stated that they felt their views had not been properly represented at the negotiation table and that the identified representatives of the displaced population were not selected by those living in IDP camps. The women IDPs felt that the negotiators had not fully understood the suffering and hardship experienced by those living in the camps.
The majority of the 296 women who participated in the survey stated that the dissemination of information about the peace talks and the signed peace document was very limited and attributed this to the stakeholders' fear of sparking conflicts in the IDPs camps.
The following are some of the main group-disaggregated issues resulting from the analysis of the questionnaires:
These results highlight the lack of ownership of the peace agreement by important sections of the population and confirm the concerns expressed by a large number of Sudanese human rights and peace activists, IDPs and refugees who believe that the DDPD will repeat the failure of the Abuja peace agreement.
On 24 April 2012, addressing the Sudanese Parliament about the enforcement of the DDPD, Dr Tijani el-Sissi, Chair of the Regional Authority of Darfur and Head of LJM, cautioned that the Doha agreement could fail because of a lack of funds. He added that the Sudanese Government has yet to establish the Development Bank of Darfur and pay the promised USD200 million as the capital base to fund the reconstruction of Darfur. The Bank, a proposal by Qatar, is intended to assist with development and reconstruction initiatives in Darfur. Dr el-Sissi stated that 'the Government has not paid a penny for the bank. We should be more serious if we want peace in the region.' Dr el-Sissi affirmed that the lack of funding led to the postponement of two conferences on reconciliation for Darfurians and the voluntary return of IDPs and refugees.
Women's Initiatives at the AWID Forum 2012!
The 12th AWID International Forum took place from 19 to 22 April 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey. The AWID Forum 2012, with the theme 'Transforming economic power to advance women's rights and justice', was attended by more than 2,000 participants from all over the world.
■ No Longer Silent — Screening of gender justice documentaries at the AWID Forum
During the AWID Forum, the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice hosted the screening of two short documentaries produced by the Women's Initiatives and 15 local partners in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in collaboration with WITNESS. The advocacy films centre around interviews with women living in these conflict and post-conflict environments, and their demands for justice in response to the violence committed by armed groups.
Through six testimonies of women abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the Uganda documentary, No Longer Silent, highlights women's experiences of returning to their communities and rebuilding their lives. Access to housing and land, as well as food security and the desire for their children to receive an education are among their primary challenges and concerns. The documentary exposes the shortcomings of the current Peace, Recovery and Development Plan of the Ugandan Government which has to date not included women as beneficiaries in the reconstruction programmes.
The DRC film, Our Voices Matter, shows the multiplicity of perpetrators operating in Eastern DRC, and includes powerful testimonies from women victims/survivors reflecting their desire for justice, the lack of accountability for perpetrators as well as the urgent need for medical services, psychosocial assistance and economic opportunities for women victims/survivors.
Speakers at the AWID event included: Chat Garcia Ramilo, Chair of the Board, Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice, and Women's Programme Coordinator for the Association for Progressive Communications (APC); Jane Akwero Odwong, Uganda Programme Officer, Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice; and Kate Orlovsky, Legal Officer, Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice.
■ In-depth session on Militarism, Violence and Conflict
The Women's Initiatives participated in the AWID organising committee for the Militarism, Violence and Conflict theme developing the concept and programme for these sessions. The purpose of this theme was to provide the participants with a deeper knowledge of the economics of armed conflicts and the gendered impact of militarism, and to offer a space for exchanging experiences and strategies at the international level.
On 22 April, Women's Initiatives staff Brigid Inder, Executive Director, and Jane Akwero Odwong, Uganda Programme Officer, gave presentations on the ICC and Uganda respectively during the Militarism, Violence and Conflict theme.
In her presentation, Ms Inder highlighted the important role that the ICC can play in opposing armed conflicts and their gendered impacts. Ms Inder informed participants that the ICC Statute contains the most advanced articulation in history of acts of violence against women recognised by international criminal law. In talking about armed conflicts, Ms Inder stated that many of the actors within a conflict zone, when considered together, inadvertently or deliberately form a successful conflict ecosystem, 'Successful in the sense that they form an ecosystem of conflict which ensures its own survival.' With regard to the ICC, Ms Inder underlined that, because of its unique mandate to address war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, this institution may be one of the only entities 'that can act as a circuit breaker for these conflict ecosystems given many of these sites are proving largely immune to traditional security responses'.
Talking specifically about the 23-year long conflict in Northern Uganda, Ms Akwero underlined its socio-economic effects, stating that 'The once relatively prosperous districts in Northern and North Eastern Uganda became impoverished areas, with a terrorised, displaced and traumatised population.' Ms Akwero added that 'Even if the conflict affected entire communities, women bore and continue to bear the greatest brunt.' In drawing some lessons from the conflict in Northern Uganda, Ms Akwero highlighted that women and men experienced the conflict differently and that, because women suffered most, they should be crucial stakeholders in peace processes. 'Women are essential to forging sustainable peace and women's peace initiatives can lead to agreements that are more inclusive and community-based,' she said.
■ Read more about the in-depth session Militarism, Violence and Conflict.
Announcement from AWID —
1 Article 151 of the 1991 Criminal Act provides that 'There shall be deemed to commit the offence of gross indecency, whoever commits any act contrary to another person's modesty, or does any sexual act, with another person not amounting to adultery, or sodomy, and he shall be punished, with whipping not exceeding forty lashes and he may also be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or with a fine. (2) Where the offence of gross indecency is committed in a public place or without the consent of the victim the offender shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or with a fine.' Human Rights Monitoring June-July 2009, African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, last visited on 23 May 2012.