Women and Politics of Peace: South Asia Narratives on Militarization, Power, and Justice


Rita Manchanda

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    List of Abbreviations


    Armed Forces Special Powers Act


    Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission


    Afghan Local Police


    Afghan National Army


    Awami National Party


    Afghan National Police


    Afghanistan National Armed Forces


    Afghan National Security Forces


    Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons


    Afghanistan Peace and Reconciliation Program


    Asia-Pacific Women's Alliance on Peace and Security


    Association of War Affected Women


    Bangladesh Indigenous Women's Network


    Beijing Platform for Action


    Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India


    Constituent Assembly (Nepal)


    Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women


    Chittagong Hill Tracts


    Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances


    Criminal Investigations Department


    Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons


    Commission of Inquiry




    Centre for Policy Analysis


    Comprehensive Peace Agreement


    Communist Party of Nepal


    Consultative Task Force


    Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration


    Director General of Forces Intelligence


    Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups


    Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front


    Economic & Political Weekly


    Elimination of Violence Against Women


    Federally Administered Tribal Areas


    Frontier Crimes Regulation


    Female Headed Households


    Forum for Women, Law & Development


    Government on India


    General Recommendation


    Heinrich Boll Foundation/Stiftung


    Human Development Index


    High Peace Council


    Human Rights Commission of Pakistan


    Home for Human Rights


    Human Rights Watch


    High Security Zone


    Hill Women's Federation


    International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights


    International Centre for Ethnic Studies


    International Commission of Jurists


    International Court of Justice


    International Crisis Group


    Information and Communications Technology


    International Crimes Tribunal


    International Center for Transitional Justice


    Internally Displaced Persons


    International Humanitarian Law


    International Independent Group of Eminent Persons


    International Military Forces


    Indian Peace Keeping Force


    International Security Assistance Force


    Jana Samhati Samiti


    Janathā Vimukthi Peramuna


    Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer


    Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission


    Lanka Sama Samaja Party


    Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam


    Ministry of Women Affairs


    Minority Rights Group


    Mannar Women for Human Rights and Democracy


    Mannar Women's Development Federation


    National Action Plan


    Nepal Bar Association


    National Consultative Peace Jirga


    North East Network


    National Intelligence Bureau


    Non-Governmental Organization


    Naga Mothers Association


    Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights

    NSCN (IM)

    National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak-Muivah


    Nepal Transition to Peace Initiative


    North West Frontier Province


    Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


    OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka


    Office of Missing Person


    Office of National Unity and Reconciliation


    Pacific and Asian Women's Forum


    Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Complaints of Abduction and Disappearances


    Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti


    Pakistan–India Peoples' Forum for Peace and Democracy


    People's Liberation Army


    Pre-orientation Program


    Provincial Reconstruction Teams


    Peace Training and Research Organization


    Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan


    Resolute Support Mission


    South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation


    South Asia Forum for Human Rights


    South Asian Women's Forum


    South Asian Women for Peace


    South Asian Women's Institute for Peace Studies


    Security Council Resolution


    Sexual Gender Based Violence


    Sub-committee on Gender Issues


    Seven Party Alliance


    Suriya Women's Development Centre


    Terrorists Investigations Department


    Truth and Reconciliation Commission


    Tehriqi Taliban Pakistan


    United Marxist-Leninist


    United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan


    United Nations Population Fund formerly United Nations Fund for Population Activities


    United Nations Human Rights Council


    United Nations Development Fund for Women now UN Women


    United Nations Interagency Rehabilitation Program


    United Nations Mission in Nepal


    United Nation Security Council


    United Nations Secretary General


    Village Defence Committee


    Verified Minor and Late Recruits


    Women's Action Committee


    Women's Action Network


    Women's Action Forum


    Women's Alliance for Peace, Power, Democracy and Constituent Assembly


    Women's Coalition for Disaster Management


    World Conference on Women


    Women's International League for Peace and Freedom


    Women's Initiative for Peace in South Asia


    Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace


    Women & Media Collective


    Women Peace and Security


    Women's Regional Network


    This book has been a long journey, inspired by an assembly of women across the South Asian region, claiming a voice, challenging marginalization, and asserting their perspectives, but it would not have been possible without the unstinted support of Anne Stenhammer of the UN Women South Asia Regional Office, who shared that vision and boldly overcame national anxieties about engaging with the women, peace, and security agenda in the region. A special thanks to Roshmi Goswami, who constituted the UN Women-SASRO “Experts Group” which enabled the convening of the conference “The Changing Dynamics of Peace Building in South Asia: Recasting Women's Agency and Transformative Strategies” that provided the blueprint for the book. Special mention should be made on the continuing support extended by Rebecca Tavares, UN Women. Vital in backing research for the book project was Navsharan Singh, IDRC, who has been enthusiastic in supporting gender equality initiatives. Such an edited volume is a collective effort in both its conceptualization and translation into text, and my sincere appreciation to all the contributors for their willingness and patience in walking the long journey to publication. Also, I owe a debt of gratitude to the South Asia Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR) team, particularly Tapan Bose and editorial assistants Aarushi Prakash and Swati Prabhu. Finally, a special word of thanks to the SAGE Publications' editorial team, especially Supriya Das, and to the anonymous reviewer whose helpful comments made our arguments more robust.


    Sima Samar, Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission

    The Regional Context

    The stuttering on-again and off-again talks about talks with the “good” Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2012–151 have finally foundered because of the Taliban's unrelenting offensive, but not because of the prescient warnings of Afghan and Pakistani women who question such peacemaking which far from ending violent extremism exacerbates militarization and terrorist activities. Women were convinced that such a “peace” would prove disadvantageous to their rights and life chances as had been the bitter experience of women in Swat and FATA, Pakistan. But evidently, such anxieties mattered little at the “peace table” where men concerned with power and domination sat with guns. Paradoxically, while these Afghan and Pakistani women work for peace, many are more worried about the crisis of the solutions being proposed and the prospect of a post-conflict political economy of violence that will disempower them further.

    Transformative Peace with Women

    When the moment of peacebuilding is unlikely to be transformative and is more of a restoration of status quo (which was part of the problem in the first place), how should women's collectivities—local, national, and regional—engage with peace processes that deliver a violent peace or at best peace as “pacification”? (Francis 2010). It is a dilemma that continues to splinter women's networks across regions and ethnicities in Nepal, the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT): Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. In post-war Sri Lanka, the continuing failure to bridge the justice and reconciliation gap has resulted in heightening the state's two antagonistic ethnonationalist ideologies (Uyangoda 2012:21) and created a context in which according to an interview-based study, Sinhala women dream of returning to the idyllic communal harmony of the pre-conflict time, while Tamil minority women demand transformative justice (Hernández-Reyna 2013:45–46). In Nepal and the CHT the moment of peacemaking divided the Maoist women leaders in the Himalayan state and split the Hill Women's Federation which had held aloft the human rights and peace front in the CHT.

    In India's Northeast, the top-down Indo-Naga Framework Agreement (2015) has been signed, but the Naga Mothers and other social collectivities in the vanguard of the peace movement were kept out. Most likely then that the Agreement's provisions (still secret) will follow the script of earlier accords around identity conflicts, guaranteeing the community's customary laws, without reservation and ignoring international norms of protection of women's rights. How should women balance their identification with the struggle for the survival of community identity and challenge customary practices which are gender oppressive?

    Gendered power shifts produced in the upheaval of conflict and the peace momentum open up empowering possibilities for women as evidence-based research has established, but only too quickly, tail into a patriarchal backlash (Manchanda and Bose 2015). The conflict “aftermath” brings back the gendered public–private divide, pushing women ideologically and violently back into the private sphere. Motherhood politics empowers women in conflict and disempowers them in “peacetime” (Kolas 2014: 41–48). The contingent situation may be different in Bangladesh or Northeast India but the gendered politics of being instrumentalized in power narratives is the same across regions and cultures (Meintjes, Thurshen, and Pillay 2002).

    When peace agreements are negotiated, nobody asks women “what do you think”—be it the misogynist Taliban with its ideology of subjugating women or the gender “neutral” negotiators in Nepal, India's Northeast or Bangladesh's CHT. In Pakistan's Swat peace negotiations (2008–2009), when women lobbied to be included, insisting on “no peace talks about us, without us” and in a rare exception a woman minister was included in the Awami National Party delegation, the gender apartheid Taliban made her exclusion a deal breaker (Bushra Gohar, South Asia Women's Meeting on WPS, Delhi 2014). The Swat accord unleashed more violence and militarization.

    How should women confront the multilayered sociocultural barriers that block their entry into public life so as to participate as equal citizens in rebuilding conflict affected societies and a stable and just peace? In Nepal and Afghanistan, the peace momentum delivered progressive policies but regressive practices. Gender quotas ensured that a third of the members in Nepal's Constituent Assembly were women, but numbers do not translate into power and authority when there is no inner party democracy and the post-conflict consensus rapidly gives way to a sharply divided polity. In Afghanistan, gender quotas seated women in the Constitutional Jirga and parliament, but increasing insecurity with impunity has made elected women more dependent upon conservative warlords who promote them as proxies, alienating them from the women's networks which had lobbied for their participation. Sri Lanka continues to resist gender quotas. Its profile of representation reveals the hostility of political parties to women in politics across ethnicities. After the initial strides of Tamil women into public office, Tamil men emboldened by the possibility of leveraging electoral victories in the North, have eased out the women.

    Militarization, Security, and Violent Peace

    Increasingly, women's efforts at peacebuilding in South Asia are coming up against the long-term effects of entrenched and expansive militarization in the region and the corrosion of access to justice and fundamental freedoms. How should women's rights activists respond to peace kept at gun point, that is, militarization of peace as in Sri Lanka and Kashmir? The morphing of hard militarization in post-war societies into “soft militarization” is normalizing militarization in peacetime as evidenced in the increasing penetration of the military into civilian, economic, and governance sectors in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

    Militarization gets normalized when emergency laws that suspended fundamental rights in these “zones of exception” get incorporated into post-war—post-conflict legal regimes. Values and practices of militarization get routinized when in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) local residents, driving past miles of permanent camps of security forces through the border district of Rajouri barely notice the slogan painted on the walls ajeet hain, abheet hain! (we are victorious, we are invincible), let alone question—victory over whom: their own citizens! (Women's Regional Network 2014: 31).

    The use of new tools of militarization—surveillance technologies—is making for securitized societies with gendered consequences, especially for women's security, their livelihood options, welfare needs, and the social networks on which they depend. In post-war Sri Lanka, women embedded in the country's unresolved contradiction of two antagonistic ethnonationalist ideologies are under pressure to conform to gendered ethnocultural ideals. Accordingly, women have stepped back into even more domesticated spheres, grounded on identities such as the ideals of “[…] a good women, the nation of the good women, the patriotic women.” (De Mel interviewed by Hernández-Reyna 2013: 56).

    The ascendancy of extremist forces has created an ambivalent context for women, where they reject the strictures on their conduct imposed by misogynistic extremists but are desperate to protect their families and their communities from polarization and threat. Women peacebuilders are caught between the rising tide of extremism in their communities, and the constraints placed upon their work by counter-terrorism policies (UN Women 2015a:14). Women's rights activists are confronting strategies that instrumentalize women in the fight against extremists, and render them more vulnerable when “protectors” exit as in Afghanistan?

    In the post-9/11 decade, women's rights groups in Pakistan were confronting a post-secularist lobby that valorizes a “different” kind of equality (nonliberal and non “Western”), and conflates with discredited western values, the possibility of “Muslim women being allowed to step out of their infantilized marital roles and pietist desires and be recognized as equal citizens” (Shehrbano 2015). While all sections of society are affected by the expanding sites and forms of militarization, the impact on women and their lives is disproportionate, given that militarism and patriarchy are conjoined ideological systems. Moreover, structurally entrenched gender inequalities in South Asian societies render women particularly vulnerable. The female body, in the name of protecting the “honor” of our women (and violating the honor of the other), becomes the front on which war is waged. In India, the hysteria around the myth of love jihad (the seduction of Hindu women by Muslim men) ignited the Muzaffarnagar (2014) communal violence including the sexualized attack on the Muslim women there.

    How should women's collectivities confront the post-conflict, political economy of violence which as in the CHT targets women's vulnerability (through arson and sexualized violence) for land grabbing and forcible displacement, putting at risk lives, livelihoods and inhibiting women's agency? Should gender-equality activists promote jobs for women's in the militaries or resist it as expanding the militarization of society in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka? How can feminist peace activists be strengthened in their work in reimagining an alternative discourse to war and militarism?

    Justice, Reconciliation, and Reparations

    The transition to a “post-conflict” situation hinges upon demilitarization and power sharing and crucially, truth, justice, and reconciliation for healing war-scarred societies, fighting impunity and reestablishing the rule of law and governance. In South Asia, transitional justice (TJ) mechanisms have got embedded in the tools of peacemaking in the region but “reconciliation” has overwhelmed truth, justice, and reparations. Perpetrators who continue to control the institutions of power decree blanket amnesties. In Nepal, TJ mechanisms are being used by political actors to shield those who were responsible for serious violations and not to account for past crimes, except to say that “reconciliation” must happen between communities.

    In Sri Lanka, reconciliation has been overtaken by the focus on recovery and the material “reconstruction” of the war-torn infrastructure of the northern and eastern regions, with little attention to the social issues and gendered dimensions (ICAN 2013: 5) of problems facing local populations. A survey by the Jaffna-based Center for Women and Development estimates that there are in total 40,000 female-headed households (FHH) and 20,000 of them in Jaffna district alone (cited in ICAN 2013: 5). But the post-war reconstruction process has been directed at traditional family units with the assumption that there is a male head of household and decision-maker. There has neither been any attention to FHH nor to the fact that women's and men's needs, concerns, and skills may vary significantly.

    Six years after the war ended, Sri Lanka's experiments with state managed TJ mechanisms via “Commissions of Inquiry” have failed to bring closure to the violent past in a deeply divided and unequal society. The aspiration to “move on” trips over the anguished need for truth and justice; and inhibits women's groups across regional and ethnic fault lines to work together to protect rights across ethnic regions and collectively heal (Hernández-Reyna 2013: 44). In Bangladesh, the government's institution of a War Crimes Tribunal (2010–) 40 years after the 1971 Liberation War, and the popular support for justice articulated in the Shabagh Movement, is a sharp reminder of the necessity of retributive justice for closure, but equally it is a reminder of the socially disrupting consequences of holding a Tribunal in a deeply polarized polity.

    In Nepal and Afghanistan women's groups, human rights collectivities and victims groups are up against amnesties positioned as a deal breaker in political settlements. The May 2016 power deal struck between political actors in Kathmandu assures general amnesty to Maoist leaders and cadres accused of human rights violations. Victims are being forced to give us justice for a dubious reconciliation as part of the truth reconciliation (TR) process. When the state protector is the predator, from whom do women demand justice? Sexual violence is exempted from amnesty but the statute of limitation of 35 days for reporting war-time rape is a cruel joke.

    Lofty normative frameworks commit the international community to hold accountable perpetrators of grave crimes against women through criminal justice proceedings, and to exclude amnesties especially for sexual violence. What difference has it made for survivors to access justice and reparations and to deter gender-based sexualized violence? The evidence from South Asia is distressing. Special security laws such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act2 (AFSPA) in India have entrenched a socio-legal culture of impunity, resulting in denial of justice, social stigma, and economic distress. In the last 54 years, not a single member of the army or paramilitary has been prosecuted3 for murder, rape, or destruction of property except in some rare instances, when under the Army Act, a court martial has been conducted (Verma Committee Report 2013).

    The culture of impunity for crimes against women has lowered the social threshold for violence and sexualized abuse of women. While still a child you can be shot in the head or blown up by a mine on the way to school. Reproductive rights can be violated by extremist diktats and gendered insecurities can curb access to school, livelihood, and public office. UN Human Rights Council reports continue to raise concern on the increasing incidence of violence with impunity against girls/women as a common feature of transitional and “post-war” societies (OHCHR 2015).

    Justice mechanisms, including truth and justice processes remain gender-insensitive to women's priorities. Navanethan Pillay, the UN Human Rights Commissioner had warned: “Experience shows that in most transitional justice scenarios there is a chronic problem of gender inequality and systemic discrimination against women” (2009). TJ mechanisms in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka reflect these persisting gender gaps, especially in understanding “what is justice” for women. It is both contextual and gendered, a Nepali woman activist emphasized, “just offering justice and punishment for the perpetrators is not enough, as many women want reparation and rehabilitation, without which they won't come forward” (UN Women 2015a:109).

    These above concerns, perspectives, and questions were voiced by the region's women politicians, scholar–activists, gender-equality campaigners, women peace mentors, human rights defenders, and women political leaders at a series of regional conclaves in Kathmandu (2013), Delhi (2014), and Kathmandu (2015). Women focused on the changing dynamics of the multiple threats to peace and security and its consequences for redefining the women, peace, and security (WPS) discourse in the region. These regional conversations were opportunities to audit our states' implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) which magisterially established the relevance and value of linking WPS. It was an exercise in transnational feminist solidarity.

    The intensity and richness of transnational experiential sharing and knowledge production provided the impetus and organizing framework for this South Asian volume. Also, the logic behind driving the book project was that in the UN Women compendium Sourcebook and Handbook, missing from the evidence-based global mapping of WPS were the experiences of the women of a region where a third of the world's women live (UN Women 2012b). Additionally, the region has some of the worst gender indicators in the world.4 Feminist scholars have pointed to the crucial linkage between women's low social status and gendered vulnerabilities, that is, the continuum of the “the mundanity of rightlessness” pre-conflict, conflict, and post-conflict (Pereira in Hossain and Mohsin (edited), Zubaan 2016).

    Thinking Regionally: Working across Borders

    Underpinning these regional conclaves and indeed the book project was the understanding that women across South Asia share a struggle with decades of interstate and intrastate conflicts, the roots and consequences of which increasingly connect the region's diverse histories and societies. They confront a common pattern of gendered vulnerability and opportunity rooted in the low status of women in the region, though the contingent situation will be different. The future stability of the region reflects the regions interconnectedness. For instance, the Afghanistan transition post-2014 directly affects “peace” and democratic rights in all the neighboring countries. Peace in the region is contingent upon curbing the competition and confrontation of regional (and global) hegemons and abandoning the self-destructive strategy of using proxy armed groups.

    Deficits of governance, development, and democracy have produced conditions for extremists to spread violence within and across national boundaries. Self-serving elites, weak governance institutions, and the contagion of the socio-legal culture of impunity has unleashed vigilante violence targeting secularists, dissenters, human rights defenders, minorities, and women who dare to “step out.” Women across the region voiced their anxiety at the transnational contagion of ascendant extremist ideologies and the growing culture of intolerance, violent vigilantism, and nonaccountability.

    What is striking at these cross-border dialogues is the effulgent experience of transnational solidarities in confronting shared crisis. For instance in Kathmandu (2013), there was a crisp indictment of geostrategic global interests which exacerbated tensions and produced conditions for extremists to create division and conflict in the region. But equally, women were critical of the destabilizing activities of their own and neighboring states and alluded to the historical and contemporary dynamics of the production of political violence and war atrocities, for example, Pakistan: “East Pakistan”/Bangladesh 1971 war; India: Sri Lanka 1987; Pakistan: Kashmir/India; and the Pakistan: Afghanistan: India triangle of cooperation and confrontation.

    Women introspected on what should be their responsibility vis-à-vis their state's hegemonic activities in destabilizing neighboring states, especially when such actions have direct implications for the rights of women with whom we avow solidarity? A benchmark in “herstory” of women's peace activism, in this volume, is the symbolic significance of Pakistani women apologizing for the war crimes perpetrated by Pakistan soldiers on Bangladeshi women. Pakistan Government has not apologized, although the established war narrative of the 1971 war is being challenged by military voices in Pakistan exposing the army's role in systemic and widespread use of sexual torture and forced pregnancy.5

    Myriad initiatives at cross-border peacebuilding and democracy building activities have shown the importance and value of regional thinking and regional strategizing. Institutional initiatives such as SAARC may be flaccid, but as the quintessential regionalist Tapan Bose remarked, “the regional identity of South Asia is not state driven but people driven. The task is to push our national security states to transform themselves to respond to people's needs. Here women's movements have been amongst the strongest in transforming state and society relations” (SA Women's Conference 2013). More recently, cross-border gender-accountability initiatives got a new impetus with women's groups using the Convention on Elimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) reporting mechanism to demand accountability for India violating Sri Lankan6 and Nepali women's rights.7

    Three of the region's leading women peace activists Goswami, Khan, and Samuel in mapping “herstory” of the region's WPS narrative in this volume, posit that the range of cross-border networks of women's peace activism and especially the interventions of the region's leading peace women, have created sufficient momentum to produce a South Asian women's peace movement and a recognizable regional WPS discourse. An important caveat is added by a Pakistan feminist scholar Nighat Khan, reminding us of the divisions among women's groups and indeed against homogenizing women and privileging women as a category. “We need to recognize that women have multiple identities and at what point their identity as a woman is privileged over the religious, caste or other identities issues” (UN Women SA Conference 2013).

    UNSCR 1325 and WPS Agenda in South Asia

    The advocacy work of South Asian women's groups has been an integral part of the global mobilizations that resulted in the historic advances for women's human rights as reflected in the successes of the women's treaty CEDAW, World Human Rights Conference, the World Conferences on Women, including the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) which identified “women and armed conflict” as one of the 12 critical areas of concern. Five years later, the UN Security Council gave formal recognition to the linkage between WPS by adopting UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000.8

    The narratives of production of UNSC 1325, as Laura Shepherd deconstructs, arise from the two sites of power (institutions) which claim authority over the adoption of Resolution–Security Council and the NGO Working Group on Peace and Security 2000 (Tryggestad 2009: 396).9 These two narratives derived from the women peace and security discourse are competitive; one is state centric, militarist and masculine, and at home in the UN Security Council, the other is socially transformative, emphasizing the participation of women in prevention, rebuilding and recovery. But the dominant logic in the two discourses of gender peace and security is compatible, for implicit in the image of war-torn societies being rebuilt is the global neoliberal governance agenda that converges with the concepts of state and sovereignty emerging from the UNSC. Shepherd, importantly, reminds that NGO activity at the global level was dominated by the industrialized countries situated in the zones of peace, a domination that has choked the production of alternative narratives in the zones of conflict.

    This edited volume from the zones of conflict in South Asia realigns the WPS discourse closer to the global south as indeed does the UN Women “Global Study” (2015a). In documenting the region's narrative of the production of the WPS discourse, Chapter 3 “herstory” argues that from the outset there was a disconnect between the discursive trajectories of (a) the global south women's rights movements and (b) the coalition of transnational advocacy networks of women and human rights groups. That coalition drove the WPS agenda in the all-boys club, the Security Council (Tryggestad 2009).

    Goswami, Khan, and Samuel allude to their diffidence about the campaign of some “northern NGOs” to have a WPS resolution adopted by the Security Council, an exclusivist forum with an “unfortunate history” of punitive military interventions targeting the “underdog.” The preference was for the more inclusive General Assembly resolution or incorporation in the CEDAW mechanism. The authors contend that the trajectory of the WPS resolutions was diverging from the women's rights and the social-equality agenda. Significantly, 1325 and its affiliate WPS resolutions 1820, 1880, and 1889 do not invoke the CEDAW framework of substantive-equality. “Of the 988 resolutions since the year 2000, when the Council took up the WPS agenda, only 10 resolutions mention CEDAW” (Asling Swaine cited by Leslie Davis in GIWPS 2016).

    Housed in the Security Council, the WPS resolutions gain on symbolic importance but lose on ownership. Attention to the WPS agenda in the Council depends upon committed individuals in members states and the UN Secretariat. The NGO–Working Group in mapping WPS in the Security Council in 2013–14 concluded that the Security Council has “not truly internalized the WPS agenda. When considering crisis situations (post-electoral violence, spurt in violence against civilians) in countries that have peacekeeping or political mandates it rarely addresses WPS concerns, despite its consideration of WPS in its regular discussions on these countries.”

    The tension between the two trajectories of WPS & CEDAW burst into the open at the Kathmandu meeting of the Asia-Pacific Women's Alliance on Peace and Security (APWAPS) when the women exhorted Coomaraswamy, helming the Global Study on UNSCR 1325 (UN Women 2015a), to guard against 1325 becoming “more a management tool of making wars and conflicts safe for women rather than addressing the root causes and politics of wars and conflicts.”10

    These divergences in perspective contribute to the limited impact of the WPS resolutions in the region and its value to civil society for promoting peace with women. Indeed, the gendered and disproportionate impact of conflict on the lives of the region's women remains largely overlooked by national and international policymakers in the region. UNSCR 1325 has had little influence in protecting or promoting women as key drivers in peacebuilding (Paffenholz, Potter, and Buchanan 2015). Women, as a social group, have been marginalized in peace processes of the region, for example, CHT, Northeast India SWAT & FATA: Pakistan, as well as internationally facilitated and monitored ones: Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Afghanistan (Bell and O'Rourke 2010).

    The governments of India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka are wary of mechanisms that trail international accountability for human rights, including women's rights, in internal conflicts. For example, India supports 1325 but denies the existence of internal “armed conflicts,” and the relevance of 1325 to “disturbed” areas of the Northeast and J&K.11 Even in instances where some gender-active policymakers have slipped into the country's five year plans, references to the special concerns of “women in disturbed areas” and explicitly called for gender review of AFSPA, neither 1325 nor any other international mechanism is invoked as a norm (India Planning Commission Five Year Plans: XI 2005–11& XII 2012–17, 54–56). In India's expanding overseas assistance when claims are made on gender inclusiveness (e.g., Sri Lanka–India Housing Project), there is no reference to the international benchmark—CEDAW or 1325 (Manchanda 2015).

    In Nepal's internationalized peace process, the framework of 1325+ has proved more influential (Banerjee et al. 2010). Nepal adopted a National Action Plan (NAP) on 1325 and 1820, and as leading women's rights advocate Bandana Rana emphasized the international profile of 1325 helped them leverage the support of key ministries and include 75 women in the NAP Steering Committee. However, as with other country experiences, Nepal's NAP is “napping” as the new political forces in control have little stake in earlier commitments (Buchanan et al. 2012).

    In Afghanistan, another internationalized peace process, protecting and promoting Afghan women's rights in post-war Afghanistan was a mantra but it was not till 2009 that NATO took on a gender advisor. Ten years into the peace process, Afghanistan began discussions on a 1325 NAP driven by the INGO Inclusive Security. In 2015, Afghanistan adopted a NAP on 1325. On NAP's effectiveness, Afghan Women's Network assessment is bleak (Karlidag 2014). The resurgence of the Taliban and the international community's quit strategy has not only deprioritized women's rights, but produced a willingness to barter rights for a “peace” deal. Disillusionment over the ineffectiveness of 1325 is reflected in Sima Samar, ex-Minister Women's Affairs, comments, “It recognizes us (women) but it doesn't include us.”

    In South Asia, “it is our own initiatives and movement building in the region that gives us our energy and provides more solace than the UN,” asserted Hina Jilani, the former UN Special Rapporteur. “Let us build on 1325. Whatever you have on hand you use to your advantage. But it cannot be the center of our focus.” Echoing this ambivalence, Sheba George, a human rights defender working with anti-Muslim pogrom survivors was blunt,

    In Gujarat, every national machinery and international mechanism was harnessed. An incredible number of feminists, human rights experts and activists made representations before a host of national and international fora including CEDAW committee. Yet it was mostly through the Court that truth was established and justice rendered to the extent possible. (SA Women's Conference Report 2013)

    In contrast, the adoption of CEDAW GR 30 (CEDAW General Recommendation 30, 2013) was welcomed by women's groups in the region as a “game changer.” Importantly, GR 30 defines “conflict” as spanning foreign occupation to communal violence, its analysis stresses structural inequalities and unlike 1325, the treaty body has an accountability mechanism. Even before GR 30, women's groups in India have used the CEDAW (North East Network 2008) reporting mechanism to leverage international accountability on sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) in the Gujarat massacre, and AFSPA in the conflict troubled Northeast (CEDAW 2014; Hazarika 2014: 175).

    Women's groups have used the available opportunities12 to leverage international mechanisms to establish state accountability for women's rights in conflict and peacebuilding. It is worth remembering that CEDAW, 1325, and BPFA have large and sustained civil society constituencies as was evidenced during the Beijing +20 civil society review (UN Women 2014). In Nepal, as Mandira Sharma in this volume highlights, human rights organizations brought in vetting measures by lobbying the Department of UN Peacekeeping Operations to recall UN peacekeepers accused of human rights violations in Nepal. Human rights defenders have invoked the Rome statute (International Criminal Court) to indict rape as a “war crime” and a “crime against humanity” in informal and formal systems of justice. Sexualized violence in the 1971 war played a key role in the provenance of the international legal discourse on rape as a weapon of war.

    Book's Vision, Structure, and Methodology

    The essays in this volume are held together by the vision of women as equal citizens determined to be part of processes that control their life chances, and build a transformative peace reworking unequal relations. As Afghanistan's Human Rights Commissioner Sima Samar reminded the community of women and men in Delhi (2014), “during 35 years of war Afghan women because they weren't carrying guns were voiceless and forgotten, peace will be possible when women are seen not as part of the problem but the solution.”

    The edited volume is designed to bring together the region's experiences and feminist expertise and to tease out the particularities of a complex South Asian WPS discourse. Giving coherence to this collection of spatially diverse and varied experiences is the argument that there is a recognizable South Asian WPS discourse derived from the specific complexities of the region's context of colonialism, caste, ethnicity, religions, and gender and shaped by the perspectives, and peace work of the local women in the region. By foregrounding the region's experiences and analytical expertise, the book seeks to bridge a critical gap in the global discourse.

    The South Asian landscape of war and peacebuilding is both internationalized, that is, Afghanistan, Nepal, (and Sri Lanka 2002–05) and local and national, that is, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. This provides opportunities for rare comparative analysis and comparative assessment of the effectiveness of leveraging WPS resolutions. The book builds upon the region's rich stream of feminist scholarship on women, war, and peace narratives in a context of nation and state building struggles. It builds a longitudinal analysis of peace politics, to interrogate settled assumptions in view of the changing dynamics of militarization, violent peace, and persisting impunity.

    The volume represents a leap forward in the scholarly research and policy analysis of WPS by its focus on the aftermath moment of the conflict cycle, of post-war/post-conflict transitions in the region. The common aftermath experience of elusive even violent peace challenges lazy assumptions about the notion of “post-conflict” and posits the continuum of pre-conflict of conflict and post-conflict situations.

    In mapping a South Asian scape on the logic of a regional coherence in the community of experiences and policies, the volume challenges our partitioned academies that have dictated country-specific analysis. The book's argument of a SA–WPS discourse is a significant contribution to the body of knowledge.

    Diversity and Disparity of Styles

    Few scholars in the region have cross-border expertise on conflicts and peacebuilding and to distill comparative and conceptual theorizing. It remains an underdeveloped research field. The compromise was a thematic overview chapter which in broad strokes unpacks the dynamics of the theme knitting together the varied country experiences and analytically teasing out theory. Brief field notes and participant's analysis follow which focus on the country context.

    The design melds scholarly with participatory analysis. The macro level overview of the theme is written by an eminent scholar and expert in the field. For the field notes and participant analysis, I reached out to some established scholars, but importantly, a new generation of writers, including human rights defenders, judges, and politicians from conflict-affected areas. Evidently, the design predicates disparity in style of presentation. The gain is in authenticity of voice by having former judge and development practitioner Judge Najla Ayubi, human rights defender Huma Safi, educationist Noreen Naseer, and coordinator of The International CHT Commission Hana Shams Ahmed, speak for themselves.

    There is also the singularity of “herstory”, derived from a conversation among three women who inspired and gave intellectual direction to women's peace movements, and challenged “peacebuilding as an apolitical engagement and to use (sic) peacebuilding as a transformative agenda that questions both the patriarchal nature of states as well as the patriarchal development paradigms set in motion in post conflict reconstruction” (UN Women S-SARO Regional Open Day 2011). It is a personalized recalling of moments and remembering of “friends” met on myriad pathways that converged to produce a South Asian WPS discourse.

    Arguably, we will have to wait for a comprehensive analytical narrative of the making of the South Asian women and peace architecture, but “herstory” identifies the signposts on the way and whets our appetite to explore the contribution made by South Asia's peace women in shaping the global, regional, and local WPS discourse. What makes for the “particularity” of the region's peace activism? First generation feminist scholar–activist Kumari Jayawardene suggested that the robustness of the region's movements for women's rights and peace lies in its close linkages with grassroots struggles for socioeconomic justice and equal rights (Jayawardene 1986). Three decades later, feminist peace activist Kumudini Samuel in mapping what are the possible contours of peacemaking in the current imbalance of political and military power in Sri Lanka, singles out the value of the interconnectedness of women's peacework with issues of structural injustice and armed conflict in coalition building across different identity belongings. Such a coalition across ethnic fault lines would leverage not “shared oppression” but “citizenship rights and demanding a stake in determining post war development strategies…”


    The book is organized around three themes: (a) women's political participation in building a transformative peace, (b) militarization, security, and violent peace, and (c) justice, reconciliation, and reparations. These are interlinked themes. Continuing militarization, the casual and routineness of political violence has implications for women's security and freedom of movement, constraining women's life enhancing access to education, livelihood, and participation in public life. The persistence of a political economy of violence and a culture of impunity pushes women back into restricted gendered roles. Several essays grouped under militarization should be read with an eye on women's participation such as Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal's essay which discusses the complexity of women negotiating personal and public roles in militarized Kashmir.

    Women's Political Participation in Building a Transformative Peace

    This thematic segment plays out against the backdrop of the crisis of solutions proposed to end conflict, and the post-conflict political economy of violence that disempowers women, despite their being vaulted into public space during conflict and its aftermath. Invariably, the gatekeepers to the “peace table” give entry to those who have an army, represent a political party, or political community. As a recent study noted, “as the power related reasons for women's inclusion are not there; so the women are not there, if they do not lobby for their inclusion” (Paffenholz et al. 2015: 4).13 Such a strategic emphasis on one structural change—women's participation assumes women participate as “women.” It is a problematic assumption. For instance, Maoist women in India and Nepal deproritize tackling patriarchy in their political party and oppose affirmative action, identifying with the movement's political ideology.

    Swarna Rajagopalan sets the frame through a broad mapping of four-country post-conflict transitions and the struggle to leverage the peace momentum and promote women's meaningful participation in the patriarchal bastion of public affairs. Drawing a continuum between conflict and post-conflict, and “apart from conflict” situations, Swarna reflexively identifies the promoters and inhibiters to women's political participation and provides insights on the comparative effectiveness of gender quotas, but is skeptical of state interventions, pulling down the walls of patriarchal attitudes. Rita Manchanda, in a complementary chapter, explores the scope and gendered dynamics of women's participation in peace processes and peacebuilding and examines how and why peace politics are empowering and disempowering building on a five-country analysis. In an ironic tease, in the section, Gendered Perspectives on “Why I am afraid of peace!” she examines the paradox of peace women opposing peace processes that are likely to deliver a violent peace.

    Bringing in a “Participant Analysis” perspective is Goswami, Khan, and Samuel's essay, “herstory” on the contribution of the region's peace women to realigning the global WPS discourse of peace with social justice. Kumudini Samuel, a member of the region's sole gender consultative mechanism in a peace process (Sri Lanka 2002–03), in an essay encapsulating 30 years of peace activism in Sri Lanka, reflects on the prescience of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) women in insisting upon gender quotas in the face of the setbacks women encounter in politics.

    Militarization, Security, and Violent Peace

    This section tracks women's experiences of militarization through the conflict—peace cycle—“Transition” in Afghanistan, ceasefire-pacification hiatus in Kashmir, “post-war” in Sri Lanka and “post-peace accord” in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Northeast India. The peace delivered is more akin to internal domination. Military strength is rarely downsized, but as Anuradha Chenoy (2002), the region's leading scholar on women and militarization in the region examines, militarization morphs its forms, and shifts its sites. “This heavy securitization is felt differently by women who are at risk of being sexualized subjects and targets of control.” Unpacking the relationship of patriarchy and militarism as mutually reinforcing ideologies, Anuradha emphasizes that militarization constructs a particularly aggressive and homogenized form of masculinity and power that spills over into public spaces and impacts social relations in the intersection of conflict–post-conflict. Demilitarization is necessary to end violence against women, she argues.

    In the clutch of field notes, Bhasin–Jamwal's essay on Kashmir joins issue with the global discourse on women and extremist movements, and warns of women's vulnerability to being instrumentalized by both extremist ideologues and security forces as they become “easy targets for both sides for co-option as informers and spies.” Sri Lankan academic, Neloufer de Mel unravels “soft” militarization in the conflict-affected zones in North, six years after the military defeat of the LTTE. The government's hi-tech strategy of digital surveillance for managing “risks” to the nation-state, particularly focuses on the rehabilitated LTTE women who remain under intense surveillance and are socially ostracized. The indifference to gendering disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programs, including in internationally monitored peace processes is stark in Nepal where the majority of the Maoist women cadres have fallen through the cracks of gender blind rehabilitation programs as Upreti and Shreshta analyze.

    The failure to seriously address demilitarization and demobilization processes for reasons of political expediency has entrenched post-conflict political economies of violence in India's Northeast, Afghanistan, and the CHT producing increased criminality and less controlled violence. In Afghanistan, Huma Safi confronting a deteriorated security and human rights situation blames the policy choices of the international community and the Afghan Government of appeasing warlords and working through irresponsible armed groups affiliated to warlords and jihadi-parties, many of whom enjoy the overt and covert support of governmental agencies and the international community.

    Justice, Reconciliation and Reparations

    In the liberal peacebuilding template, the focus is on TJ mechanisms to address human rights crimes, to bridge the gap in the breakdown of the legal system, and to redress discriminatory laws. As the UN Human Rights Council Report on Sri Lanka bluntly said, “years of denials and cover-ups” mean that the Sri Lankan system is “not yet ready to handle these types of crime” (OHCHR 2015). TJ is not without its critics and various TR mechanisms in the region are mired in controversy over slipping up on a minimum standard for TJ, balancing truth telling with retributive justice, and confronting the struggle of memory against forgetting with the pressure to “move on.”

    Warisha Farasat, a former practitioner of TJ with the Centre for International Transitional Justice in Nepal, in her lead essay mapping TJ initiatives explores the contradictory and competing pulls inherent in the South Asian praxis of TJ. The victims perceive TJ as delivering truth justice and reparations to them, while the political class does not see it in its interest to hold itself accountable. Within this overall contradiction is the gender gap, for while there have been advances in international jurisprudence setting, implementation remains weak.

    UN Human Rights Commissioner, Navinethan Pillay in anguish observed, “A gender and women's human rights perspectives are vindicated when perpetrators of sexual violence are brought to account.” The field notes in this volume and elsewhere (Zubaan-IDRC Sexual Violence and Impunity Papers 2016; UN SG Report on Conflict Related Sexual Violence 2015) document that sexual violence in conflict and the aftermath is a widespread routine and even systematic; silence on sexual violence persists on the part of community and state, and there is a systematic lack of accountability of perpetrators.14 Exceptional but heartening is the Jaffna High Court's judgement (2015) sentencing four soldiers to 25 years imprisonment who were found guilty of gang rape of a Tamil woman in a Kilinochchi resettlement camp in 2010.

    In India, some advances have been made in jurisprudence and in amendments to the rape law (2013), such as inclusion of armed forces under the category of aggravated sexual assault category but the effect of AFSPA coupled with the Army Act (1950) has ensured impunity for widespread sexual violence. Consequently, in Kashmir, out of the 25 cases of sexual assault since 1990, partial legal process was possible only in two cases—Konan Poshpora mass rape (1990; Mushtaq et al. 2015) and the Shopian double rape (2009; International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir 2009). Evidence-based research is establishing that unless the culture of impunity against SGBV is uprooted, the social deterrent against such crimes carries over to post-conflict societies. Jamwal's field analysis shows that in Kashmir, military and militancy have spawned a social culture of violence evidenced in rising domestic violence and incest. Najla Ayubi in “No peace, without justice” argues that the impunity with which women have been killed, kidnapped, and publicly harassed by armed groups and the failure of the official justice institutions to investigate these cases has made women much more vulnerable to violence.

    Amnesties have subverted the possibility of establishing rule of law. In Afghanistan, the AIHRC's “Call for Justice” (2005) was foreclosed by the adoption of the Peace and Reconciliation law which offered blanket amnesty. Anjum Ara Begum, a legal activist from India's Northeast decried the offer of amnesty to armed groups as part of ceasefire agreements. “The victims of human rights violations, a majority of whom are women, have not been consulted about these amnesties, let alone about broader plans for transitional justice…” (SA Women's Conference 2014).

    Nepal's accountability commissions trail an amnesty clause (but exempt sexual crimes).15 However, as legal advocacy campaigner Mandira Sharma reveals the TRC process has been used as an alibi to evade due process of law by Maoists and Nepal army and police. Nepali civil society has used parallel justice initiatives—such as UN Treaty special procedures to file cases of sexual war crime in the UN Human Rights Council and so on. Impunity persists in Bangladesh through erasure of memory. Academic Dina Siddiqi focuses on the Kalpana Chakma disappearance case as symbolic of gender-based human rights crimes of the Bangladesh army against the “other,” the CHT hill people and analyzes the Bengali ethnic state's subtle strategy of systematically erasing her disappearance and even that of her military abductor from political memory.

    This book is testimony to the value of women's peacemaking and to their democratic right to seize peacebuilding as an opportunity for building a just and inclusive society. Importantly, the volume is a product of feminist researchers redefining militarization, security, peace, and justice. It intervenes at a critical cusp in the region's dynamics and the reshaping of the international peace and security order.


    1. Peace talks initiated in July 2015 by Afghanistan's Ashraf Ghani government with Taliban representatives in Pakistan, and backed this time by the country's powerful military have run aground as a result of the power struggle within the Taliban and renewed offensive. The road to peace with the Taliban is strewn with deadly mines as former Afghanistan President Karzai learnt in efforts at talking peace to Taliban leaders since 2012. Across the border, Pakistan President Nawaz Sharif since taking over power in 2014 extended overtures to the Tehiriqi Taliban, Pakistan till its devastating attack on Karachi airport precipitated the launch of Zarb-e-Azb military operation to eliminate all terrorists.

    2. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), (1958) grants special powers in what are termed “disturbed areas.” It was introduced as a legally enabling framework for the army and paramilitary forces to combat insurgency in Nagaland and since has been extended to the Northeast and J&K. The fourth and sixth sections of the Act ensure no criminal prosecution against any person who has taken action under this act without prior sanction, including sexual violence.

    3. In response to an RTI filed by Khurram Parvez, coordinator of J&K Coalition of Civil Society, the J&K Home Department replied: “no sanction for prosecution has been intimated by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Defense to the State Government from 1990–2011 under the J&K Armed Forces Special Powers Act.” See Home/RTI/15/2012/1213.

    4. See also UNDP Gender Inequality Index; World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap.

    5. Major General Khadim Hussain Raja (2012) “A Stranger in My Own Country: East Pakistan, 1969–1971 cited by Khalid Ahmed in Military voices now challenge the established narrative of the Bangladesh war in Indian Express, January 9, 2014.

    6. The CEDAW Committee in its “Concluding Observations” urged an immediate review of India's housing project in Sri Lanka.

    7. Nepal and Indian civil society networks invoked extraterritorial obligations in the context of the Laxmanpur Dam on the India–Nepal border. The CEDAW Committee urged GOI to redress concerns about displacement, loss of livelihood, housing, and food insecurity (FIAN 2013).

    8. UNSC resolutions 1325 has been followed by a succession of WPS resolutions 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), 2022 (2013), and 2242 (2015).

    9. NGO Working Group in 2000 comprised Hague Appeal for Peace, Women's International League for Peace and freedom, International Alert Amnesty International, Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children.

    10. AWAPS Recommendations to the Global Study on Implementation of UNSC 1325, Kathmandu April 2015.

    11. Indian Government has been hostile to women's groups from the Northeast raising AFSPA with the CEDAW committee and other international for India's Ambassador to the UN, Hardeep Puri's strongly protest against the inclusion of India's Naxal-affected areas under the rubric of “armed conflict” in the 2010 Report on Children in Armed Conflict (The Times of India 2010).

    12. For example, women's groups in India cutting across region, ethnicity, caste, and class came together in the Wing initiative (2010) in the context of UN SC 1325 to discuss women confronting militarized situations, gender-repressive customary laws, social discriminatory structures, and violence. In Pakistan, in May 2010, the Women's Parliamentary Caucus enabled the holding of a National Convention of Women Parliamentarians on the “Role of Women in Peace, Security and Reconciliation.”

    13. UN Women estimated in 2012 that women comprised 4 percent of signatories, 2.4 percent of chief mediators, 3.7 percent of witnesses, and 9 percent of negotiators between 1992–2011. See UN Women (2012).

    14. Justice was possible in the Bilkis Bano rape case and in the successful prosecution of Gujarat's former state Minister Maya Kodnani in the Naroda Patia case for incitement to riot, rape, and massacre. Ten years later in the Kandhamal communal assaults, out of the 41 cases of sexual assault and abuse, only the case of Sr Meena was justice possible and largely due to sustained campaigns by human rights defenders.

    15. See HR Commissioner Navi Pillay's critical comments on amnesties comments. Accessed December 19, 2016, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14510&LangID=E

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  • About the Editor and Contributors


    Rita Manchanda is an established writer, scholar-researcher, and human rights activist specializing in conflicts and peace-building in South Asia with particular attention to vulnerable and marginalized groups, that is, women, minorities, indigenous peoples, and forcibly displaced persons.

    Professor Manchanda has over 15 years of experience as a Senior Executive and Research Director with the regional NGO “South Asia Forum for Human Rights” (SAFHR), directing and coordinating a diverse portfolio of programs, including “Human Rights Audits of Peace Processes,” “Women, Conflict, and Peace,” “Media in Conflict,” and “Rights-based Approaches to Poverty Reduction.” Also, during the last decade and a half, she had been the gender advisor, Commonwealth Technical Fund (2004–05), and consultant in projects with UN Women (2010–11, 2012–13, 2014), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP 2014–15), Centre for Humanitarian Dialogues (2011, 2012), and SAFERWORLD (2015, 2016). She has lectured on conflict resolution at Rotary Centre for International Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution, Chulalongkorn University (2014), Welthungerhilfe (WHH; 2014), Lady Shri Ram College (2008–16), and SAFHR: Human Rights and Peace Orientation Course (2000–08).

    Her more recent publication SAGE Series in Human Rights Audits of Peace Processes undertaken by SAFHR and published by SAGE (2015), is a field-based audit study of peace-making in Northeast (India), Balochistan (Pakistan), Madhesh (Nepal), and Chittagong Hill Tracts (Bangladesh). Among her many books and articles are Women War and Peace in South Asia: Beyond Victimhood to Agency, a pioneering study on feminist theorizing and praxis on conflict and peace-building (SAGE 2001), and Naga Women in the Peace Process (SAGE 2004).


    Hana Shams Ahmed coordinates the work of the International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission. She is a writer, activist, and researcher, and is currently pursuing a master's degree in Sociocultural Anthropology from University of Western Ontario, Ontario, Canada.

    Najla Ayubi is a lawyer and former judge in Afghanistan, with extensive experience in judiciary, elections, human rights, and women's empowerment. She holds two master's degrees in Law and Political Science and Post-war Development Studies from the UK.

    Anuradha Chenoy is a Professor and former dean of the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has written several books and academic articles, including Militarism and Women in South Asia and Maoist and Other Armed Conflicts.

    Neloufer de Mel is a Senior Professor and Head of the Department of English, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. She is the author of Militarizing Sri Lanka: Popular Culture, Memory and Narrative in the Armed Conflict and several essays on gender, culture, film, performance, and disability studies.

    Warisha Farasat is a Delhi-based lawyer, with special interest in human rights and impunity issues. She previously worked at the International Center for Transitional Justice, New York and Kathmandu, and Centre for Equity Studies, Delhi.

    Bhavani Fonseka is a human rights lawyer and senior researcher with the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Her work has set precedents in the protection of human rights and challenging the culture of impunity.

    Roshmi Goswami is a leading member of the South Asia women's rights movement and the founder member of North East Network. She has worked on women, peace, and security (WPS) issues in UN Women, New York and Delhi, and is a prominent voice on peace and gender justice.

    Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal is the Executive Editor, Kashmir Times, and a human rights activist working and writing on communalism, borders, landmines, Kashmir conflict, India–Pakistan peace process, and gender issues. She is the Co-chairperson, India chapter of Pakistan–India Peoples' Forum for Peace and Democracy.

    Nighat Said Khan is a socialist feminist activist/academic and is the Executive Director of Applied Social Resource (ASR) Centre, Dean of Studies of ASR Institute of Women's Studies, Lahore, and the ASR Institute for Peace Studies and Peace Activism.

    Noreen Naseer is a resident of village Alizai, Kurram Agency, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and is the faculty member of the Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.

    Swarna Rajagopalan is an independent scholar and author based in Chennai, with research interests in gender, international relations, and security. She is also the founder of the Prajnya Trust.

    Huma Safi is a former deputy director, “Equality for Peace and Democracy,” and before that she was the Program Manager, “Women for Afghan Women” in Kabul, Afghanistan. She has been working on women's rights since graduating from a Madrasa with a degree in Islamic Studies.

    Kumudini Samuel is the Co-founder and Senior Programme and Research Fellow, Women and Media Collective and Executive Committee Member, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN). She is a researcher and works on policy and advocacy with a particular focus on gender, conflict, and post-conflict transitions.

    Mandira Sharma is a lawyer and human rights activist from Nepal. Formerly, she was the Executive Director of Advocacy Forum, Nepal. Currently, she is studying for her doctorate at the University of Essex, UK, researching on transitional justice issues.

    Gitta Shrestha works as an independent researcher for Wageningen University, the Netherlands. Her core research interests include inequality, social norms, and gender justice in Nepal.

    Dina M. Siddiqi is an anthropologist. She teaches anthropology in the Department of Economics and Social Sciences at BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

    Bishnu Raj Upreti is the Executive Director of Nepal Centre for Contemporary Research (NCCR). He has been engaged in teaching, research, and policy interventions on the issues of conflict and peace.

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