Gender Based Violence and Peacekeepers in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo

Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Jelena Prosevski
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Peacewomen Comment: 

This resource was submitted as part of the 1325+10 PeaceWomen initiative to compile a repository of papers dealing with a broad range of issues around the implementation of 1325, as part of the Women, Peace and Security: From Resolution to Action Geneva High-Level Consultation 15-16 September 2010, Geneva.

In order to create a comprehensive gender-sensitive peace-building process, we should challenge the currently prevalent essentialist approach to the international peacekeepers role in the post-conflict process. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, introduced in 2000, calls for gender mainstreaming in the peacekeeping process and inclusion of women in the post-conflict reconciliation process and peace-building. The resolution seems to assume that the security threat to women in a conflict and post-conflict situation comes from the opposing ethnic or social group that committed aggression on that particular population during the conflict. Unfortunately, women face security threat even from the peacekeepers themselves.

Viewing international peacekeepers, who intervene on behalf of international community, as homogeneously neutral role models of peace and security providers not only seriously impedes the peace-building process, but perpetuates conflict. While most peacekeepers serve honorably, those who engage in illegal activities, such as human trafficking, as evident in numerous examples in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Bosnia) and Kosovo, pose a direct security threat with a heavily gendered character.

Their actions are facilitated by multiple institutional insufficiencies. The first one, institutional weakness of administration in Bosnia and Kosovo is widely acknowledged and in fact is one of the reasons why the peacekeepers were deployed to these post-conflict areas. The second one is the abuse of the peacekeepers' immunity to the local laws, specifically immunity in cases of human trafficking. The attitude of “boys will be boys” and a practice of quick repatriation of those who engage in illegal activities systematically enable continuation of a transformed conflict. This conflict in Bosnia and Kosovo is no longer along ethnic divisions, but it is an international gender conflict. Specifically, from a perspective of human trafficking the conflict is between mostly men
on one side: traffickers (local and international, including peacekeepers), who are financed heavily by international peacekeeping personnel and mostly women on the other side: victims of trafficking who in the Balkans tend to originate from the Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Russia and the former Yugoslav republics. This conflict is strongly gendered, little recognized and systematically facilitated by existing institutional norms both domestically in Bosnia and Kosovo and the international community on the ground.

In this paper I challenge the essentialist view of international peacekeepers and their role in international gender conflict facilitated by impunity for their engagement in human trafficking. I specifically examine these activities in Bosnia and Kosovo. Also, I highlight the importance of addressing the institutional frameworks, particularly within the international community, that facilitate this simmering conflict and prevent peace-keeping process.

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