Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Women's Advocacy in Postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina. Implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Women's Advocacy in Postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina. Implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security

Article excerpt


The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina attracted great international attention. It was marked by intense sexualized violence on women and girls which was used as a weapon of war to terrorize civil population, instill fear, break up families, destroy communities and for ethnic cleansing. Furthermore, BiH is an example of the neglect of gender issues in post-war reconstruction. After the war sexualized violence against women in forms of trafficking of human beings (mainly women and girls) by criminal groups, but also by local police, international soldiers and peacekeepers continued (Bolkovac 2010; Rees 2002; Human Rights Watch 2002: True 2012: 141-142). A growing numbers of peacekeeping officers have been accused of engaging in sexual abuse or sex-trafficking and forcing children into prostitution in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mozambique, Cambodia, East Timor, Liberia, Sierra Leone (Bolkovac 2010; Rees 2002; Human Rights Watch 2002; Murphy 2006; Ndulo 2009; True 2012: 141-142). However, although there is much literature on Criminal Misconduct and Sexual Offenses by international personal and peacekeepers in conflict and post conflict situations this phenomenon has largely been ignored by the norm diffusion scholars.

Despite this unfavorable situation in BiH, both national and international actors have taken a number of measures to better protect women and girls from violence, promote equal opportunities and implement the requirements of international women's human rights norms (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); Beijing Platform for Action; UN Resolution 1325). In the past ten years, the Bosnian government adopted and institutionalized a number of women's rights norms and established diverse gender equality instruments (Jenichen, 2013: 203). In July 2010, a significant step was made in the field of peace and security with the adoption of the National Action Plan to implement UNSCR 1325. Furthermore, the international actors in the country have changed their position on gender issues: "[...] from a perception that gender issues are 'less important' to seeing them as 'extremely important'" (Odanovic & Stojanovic Gajic, 2013: 68). My interview partners claim this success is largely due to the work of Bosnian women's NGOs and their allies, who have been pushing the issue of Women, Peace and Security on both the national and international agenda (Sejmenovic, 2013; Zvizdic, 2013).

This article examines the role of Bosnian women's NGOs in the implementation process of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) on Women, Peace and Security in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in an effort to understand what instruments did they use to enforce women, peace and security norms into the state policy and into the policy of international actors in BiH. Which role did international actors operating in post-war BiH play? Who supported the work of local women's NGOs? These questions have thus far been neglected by research on post-war societies and international women's rights norm diffusion.

I argue that, as norm advocates, Bosnian women's NGOs have been working with a double strategy to influence gender, peace and security policy and enforce change, both by national and international actors. In order to act gender-sensitively, this paper claims--unlike most of the literature on global norm diffusion-it is not only the national actors who need to be socialized to comply with international norms and standards, but also the international political elite. Hence, it not only looks at the process of norm implementation into domestic policies, but also in the policies of international actors in post conflict countries.

This article is divided into four sections. The first section discusses norm diffusion literature and introduce the double strategy model of norm implementation. The second section identifies the violation of women's human rights during and after the conflict in BiH. …

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