Today we had a lecture on the UN’s policy to increase the role of women in peacekeeping and combat sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), a policy called gender mainstreaming. As we left the lecture, I had the overwhelming thought that the United Nations’ policy was sexist.
Gender mainstreaming calls for sexual sensitivity training, more women in leadership roles in peacekeeping and more women involved in peacekeeping as well. I whole-heartily agree with these aims. Women need to be 100% involved in the peacekeeping process and there needs to be special care taken when deal with populations of war ravaged and raped areas after a conflict is over.
What I have a major problem with is why the United Nations promotes gender mainstreaming. One article, Olivera Simic’s “Does the Presence of Women Really Matter?” in International Peacekeeping says that the UN works under the assumption that if we put more women in peacekeeping roles, sexual abuse by the peacekeeping forces will decrease. Maybe.
The assumption works under the sexist notion that men will behave when there are women around because women lower the hyper-masculinity and the war-mongering nature of men. It says that women in peacekeeping will create better peacekeeping. Again, maybe.
Maybe women make amazing peacekeepers. It is definitely true that women are more able to open up to other women after rape or sexual abuse. But to say that women will solve the UN peacekeeper’s sexual exploits is just wrong. It’s sexist and it’s wrong. You want to know how I know this?
Because the US military has made an effort to put women in positions of authority. Women are in the process of being fully integrated into the military as they are now allowed in combat roles. But the sexual harassment and sexual abuse is still ridiculously high in the US military. If the US, the very ideal of a Western nation, cannot control its soldiers sexual exploits, who is say that women from Indonesia or Brazil will be able to control the other male peacekeepers?
I honestly think that gender mainstreaming takes the blame off of the male peacekeepers who do wrong and says “Eh, it’s okay. We’ll put some women in here and it’ll stop.” They don’t fix the root of the problem. They just believe a sexist, old-age approach will cure it.
I refuse to be surprised when it doesn’t work.