Violence against Women in Politics (#VAWIP) and Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD): An Annotated Bibliography

 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN POLITICS AND WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

An Annotated Bibliography

by Radhika Bhalerao

The intent in compiling this annotated bibliography was to identify and summarise academic as well as non-academic literature easily available in the public domain on the topics of gender-based violence in politics and elections, against Women Human Rights Defenders (HRD), including violence by extremist groups.

The publication of this annotated bibliography as a public document is to assist other researchers, the donor community and others who have an interest in aforementioned arenas.

This annotated bibliography contains resources from international organisations, news articles and peer-reviewed academic publications available in the public domain. The arrangement of the bibliography has also been made in this order and not alphabetically or chronologically.

 

Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, U. N. (2004). Fact Sheet No. 29, Human Rights Defenders: Protecting the Right to Defend Human Rights. DOI: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FactSheet29en.pdf Retrieved on 2016 November, 21.

This fact sheet primarily addresses state authorities, national and international non-governmental organisations, U.N personnel, major private sector actors including transnational corporations, and HRDs themselves. The fact sheet has been divided into four sections that deal with information about what “human rights defenders” are, the violations faced by them, U.N protections and support for their work and recommendations for support and protection of their work. It has been prepared with the objective of supporting HRDs in their work.

The publication is intended for several reasons, such as to provide a rapid understanding of what a “human right defender is” and what activities he/she undertakes, support the right to defend human rights, strengthen the protection of human rights from any repercussions of their work and provide a tool for HRDs in conducting advocacy and training activities. Particular to section II, the document discusses the situation of Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) and establishes that the particular situation and role of women as HRDs require special awareness and sensitivity to both, ways in which they might be affected differently, and to some additional challenges. Importantly, this section notes that while the state is the primary perpetrator of violations against HRDs, WHRDs have often found their rights violated by members of their own communities owing to several social and cultural factors.

The publication also contains a brief analysis of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and provides an introduction to the activities and methods of work of the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations on human rights defenders.

 

Women, U. N. (2014). Violence against women in politics a study conducted in India, Nepal and Pakistan. DOI: http://iknowpolitics.org/sites/default/files/vawip-report.pdf  Retrieved on 2016 November, 21.

The object of this study is to examine, analyse and understand the context, nature, extent, motives and effects, as well as increasing awareness of, and identifying best practice approaches to Violence Against Women in Politics (VAWIP) in the countries of India, Pakistan and Nepal (South Asia). In doing so, a mixed-method sequential approach and stratified sampling has been employed. The study makes use of primary as well as secondary data. One of the first studies of its kind, it explores the connection between violence and discrimination against women, women’s political participation and political violence and is an important body of knowledge for understanding the extent of VAWIP in the subcontinent.

The study forms three conceptual categories – Structural (social, political and economic), Institutional (individual institutions through which the structure manifests itself) and Functional (efforts challenging the structural features of the socio-political devices creating and perpetuating VAWIP) – to assign the discussion on existing violence, women’s participation in politics, the challenges they face and the attempts to regulate such violence. The study asserts that patriarchy at the structural level, and all its socio-cultural ramifications, are reinforced at the institutional level and are the key factors that lead to VAWIP.

This study makes use of other important bodies of knowledge such as publications by South Asian Partnership and Centre for Social Research for understanding the nature and extent of VAWIP and for developing policy briefs as well as policy level advocacy to influence electoral reforms and creating an enabling environment for women’s engagement with politics. The primary research validates some important research findings of the secondary research used in this study, particularly that social and economic disparities affect gender equilibrium in politics, leading to a deprived political agency, of particularly those women who are not connected to a political family.

Importantly, the study establishes that there is a sparsity of dialogue on the topic of VAWIP, and the political system is in almost complete denial of the existence of VAWIP.  It further states that this silence and limited understanding of the topic is compounded by the lack of structures to address Violence against Women (VAW) and even more broadly, violence in politics.

South Asia Partnership International. (2006). Violence Against Women In Politics: Surveillance System. DOI: http://www.peacewomen.org/sites/default/files/PartPol-VAW_Surveillance_SAPI-VAWP_2007_0.pdf Retrieved on 2016 November, 21.

This guidebook has been published under the VAWIP program implemented by South Asian Partnership (SAP) International to create a favorable environment for women’s political participation in South Asia. The guidebook is intended to provide information and support the Surveillance System (SuS) developed to monitor, document, communicate, refer and advocate against VAWIP.

The guidebook is intended to provide some basic information on the development of, and support the day-to-day practical process of implementation of, the SuS at the regional level for the use of Watch Group Members, SAP Nationals and partners who are the key stakeholders of this system to understand its various levels and processes for proper functioning. The guidebook has been structured in a simple manner and written in a language that is easy to understand, and allows its users to devise a step-by-step action plan relevant to their work.

Apart from being an introduction to the VAWIP program and the SuS, its phases and areas of information, reporting of surveillance, structure of the system and the roles and responsibilities of watch groups, the guidebook also introduces the reader to the South Asian political system and the state of women’s participation in it.

 

South Asian Partnership International. (2007). Unfolding The Reality: Silenced Voices of Women In Politics.  DOI: https://www.academia.edu/14355079/Unfolding_the_reality_Silenced_voices_of_women_in_politics  Retrieved on 2016 November, 21.  

This report has been published in order to reveal the dimensions of VAWIP and attempts to document the realities of the sufferings of women trying to achieve a career in politics. Importantly, the publication holds a mirror to the issues pertaining to the structural form of violence affecting women at various levels of South Asian society.

The report has made use of National Situation Analysis reports, Case Study Reports and other documents prepared by the SAP national and partner organisations and in a unique manner attempts to understand the nature and form of violence against female politicians in a region having a paradoxically complex history of oppression, female leadership in top political positions and mobilisation of women at the grassroots level.

While the study does not cover all the dimensions of the issues of VAWIP, it is intended to act as a stepping stone towards building a new arena for addressing the issues of VAWIP and primarily acts as the breaker of silence on the issue. More importantly, the study is a breakthrough in clarifying some deep-seated myths and misconceptions associated with violence against women in the public domain. For example, it debunks the myth that the perpetrators of violence are social miscreants, perverts or thugs by its finding that government officials, political representatives at the higher echelons and law enforcing agencies top this list (effectively leaving little room for accountability).

The study also makes recommendations to the state, civil society organisations, media, as well as political parties. It urges all stakeholders to act as change agents and work towards a brighter future for women in politics.

 

South Asian Partnership International. (2010). Violence Against Women in Politics: Defining Terminologies and Concepts. DOI: https://www.ndi.org/files/VAWIP_Defining%20TERMINOLOGY%20AND%20CONCEPTS_Final.pdf Retrieved on 2016 November, 21.

This handbook has been published in order to clarify terminologies and concepts and compiling definitions and scope of terms and concepts relating to VAWIP. It has been published by SAP International in collaboration with national SAPs partner civil society organisation working on issue of VAWIP since 2006.

The handbook uses a variety of sources such as books, academic publications, UN conventions and other official UN publications, and material available on websites in the public-domain. Organised alphabetically, the handbook elaborates on concepts such as ‘Affirmative Action’, ‘Coping Mechanisms’, ‘Culture of Silence’ or ‘Women’s Qualitative Participation’ among others. It is interesting to note that this handbook is placed in the context of the challenges faced in South Asia in terms of effective democratic governance as the countries cope with demands of global economy and pressures form citizens for increased participation and representation.

The handbook has been published with the intent and object of being useful to all readers but particularly to those working on the issues of violence against women, women in politics and political violence.

 

Association for Women’s Rights in Development (2014). Our Right to Safety: Women Human Rights Defenders’ Holistic Approach to Protection. DOI: https://www.awid.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/Our%20Right%20To%20Safety_FINAL.pdf Retrieved on 2016 November, 21.

This is a research report published by the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) and dealing with the topics of safety and security of WHRDs. This research report has been formed by a consultative process that has included individual conversations as well as consultations that brought together WHRDs who defend human rights including women’s rights, in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. The report provides an insight into the complex situation of women who face threats and violence resulting from their work defending Human rights.

The report does not focus solely on the aspect of physical violence but establishes a need for creation of an enabling environment for WHRDs to work in. The report asserts that the violence experienced by WHRDs, as well as the impact it has on their lives and work, makes it imperative to adopt mechanisms for protection that address the different needs and realities of WHRDs.

Divided in five parts, the publication deals with various aspects of security and protection of WHRDs such as analysing risk factors, exploring protection measures, responsibility of the state, identification and description of regional and international human rights mechanisms in place to protect defenders and providing recommendations for various actors such as states, regional and international human rights protection mechanisms, international cooperation agencies and donors, and national and transnational corporations to develop gender-specific protection initiatives, and what “effective protection” means to WHRDs. Thus, the publication has a strong focus on protection initiatives put in place by the State as well as regional and international multilateral institutions and draws on the experiences and realities of WHRDs in relying on these protection strategies and mechanisms.

The publication emphasises the need to advance an integrated concept of security that goes beyond the mere physical protection of an individual. The report reiterates the need for protection measures and programs to take into account the historical, cultural, political and social contexts in which WHRDs live and address their specific needs and realities. Importantly, the report highlights the limitations of the term “security” by stating that it is often associated with militarization, whereas the word “protection” is often understood as having paternalistic connotations.

 

Pendigrast, K. (2016). BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE: A Preliminary Inquiry: Tangible Protection Mechanisms for Women Human Rights Defenders in the MENA Region and Beyond. Gulf Center for Human Rights. DOI: https://www.google.nl/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiXqICQwbLQAhVI0xoKHaCyAo8QFggoMAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gc4hr.org%2Freport%2Fdownload%2F55&usg=AFQjCNEzil6ViCSGR2OsqXBEWq52uPFLSw&sig2=vk_iQRLwA95xu5fU0q2Few Retrieved on 2016 November, 21.

This report has been published with the objective of initiating discussions on various thematic issues, including definitions of WHRDs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and how they relate to definitions used by United Nations Mechanisms, including the U.N special Rapporteur on the Situation of HRDs. The report establishes a feminist methodology for the research and has been created with the aim of being a collective and participatory effort based on objective investigation and analysis. The report also aims at addressing and unpacking common problems in definitions and reflecting a culture of reaction while seeking to use women’s voices as the main source of report narratives.

The report places the situation of WHRDs in the MENA region within the context of displacement, secrecy, constant assault and disrupting identity and conventional (legal approaches and social pressure) and unconventional (ICTs and methods affecting social and financial mobility) modes of targeting WHRDs. With the aim of creating a category of WHRDs with a clear set of rules and criteria to be inclusive and non-discriminatory, the report sheds light on the dilemma of the definition of WHRDs. The discussion highlights an evidential gap related to “neutrality” between the local and international circles with regard  to who can identify as a defender in general. The report asserts that the lack of knowledge and awareness of these concepts is problematic and finds that definitions of who can conceptually or theoretically constitute a WHRD are very restrictive, and contribute to excluding a lot of women who are part of these global movements, based on narrow understandings and technicalities.

The report aims to set up a basis for a holistic strategy for prevention of violence against and protection of WHRDs in this region by focusing on components such as communal approach, communal research, tackling urgent issues with time, technology, access to privacy and safe spaces, access to rehabilitation, and establishing a culture of well-being. The report also presents a comprehensive set of recommendations addressing stakeholders on various levels. Prevention is at the core of these recommendations and proposals focus on maintaining and sustaining collaboration between different agencies to achieve the anticipated results through various tools such as legal mechanisms, research, long term programing with a concentration on well-being, access and dissemination of information through safe digital spaces.

 

Foulkes, I. (2016 October, 26). Sexual harassment of female MPs widespread, report says. BBC News. DOI: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37770664 Retrieved on 2016 November, 21.

This news article reports on the study by the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) being released during the group’s annual assembly in Geneva. The article reports that over 80% of the participants had experienced some form of psychological or sexual harassment or violence, as found by the study with fifty-five Members of Parliaments (MPs) from across the globe.

The article put the report in the context of current global developments such as the U.S presidential elections and points to the abuse female politicians face, through social media, by language used by colleagues and voters. The article notes the conclusions of the report, stating that the sheer pervasiveness of sexual discrimination, from humiliating language to harassment to real violence, is preventing many elected women from carrying out their duties in freedom and safety.

 

Moloney, A (2016 September, 9). Violent Extremist groups take special aim at women, U.N. official says. DOI: http://thejournal.io/a/1049744-violent-extremist-groups-take-special-aim-at-women-u-n-official-says Retrieved on 2016 November, 21.

The article reports on the statement made by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the head of U.N Women’s advocacy agency in Salvador, Brazil, stating that armed extremist and fundamentalist groups worldwide are eroding women’s right and undermining gains made in gender equality in recent years, citing militant groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria (kidnapping of 276 girls from secondary school in Chibok) to Islamic state in Iraq and Syria (Yazidi people of northern Iraq where women and girls have been brutalised).

The article also noted the statement that fundamentalists and extremists have intensified attacks on groups that campaign for gender equality and defend human rights, globally.

 

Khan, S. R. (2009). REGIONAL CONFERENCE OF WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS 8–9 August 2009 Women Human Rights Defenders in Bangladesh. Women8, 9. DOI: http://odhikar.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Women-defenders-Bangladesh-Article-2009.pdf Retrieved on 2016 November, 21.

This paper has been presented by the author at the Regional Conference of Women Human Rights Defenders held in 2009. The author begins by accommodating the definition of  WHRDs with Article 1 of Declaration of Human Rights Defenders and proceeds to state that HRDs have several characteristics in common, even though they may have differing reasons in taking up this role. The author then notes the different areas of work that WHRDs cover, the different categories they fall in and the need for special attention and focus in order to ensure their protection. The author discusses the environment in which WHRDs conduct their activities and several gender-specific risks they face owing to the manipulative use of culture, tradition, custom, misinterpretations of religion, social pressures as well as victimisation within the private space.

The author then discusses the “Empowerment of WHRD in Bangladesh Project” by Odhikar, an organisation that has trained and enhanced activities of more than two hundred HRDs across Bangladesh. She states that the project has been aimed at training and enhancing the capacity of local WHRDs in four areas of Bangladesh, and to carry out fact finding missions and monitor the status of cases involving acid violence, rape and dowry related violence. She states that one of the outcomes of the program was the creation of a network of victims, WHRDs, local lawyer groups and the police. The author also states that among the obstacles faced while implementing the program, non-cooperation and inaction by the police was starkly visible.

In conclusion, the author states that the principles of gender equality and non-discrimination of women are vital to protection of WHRDs, and that the state must take measures to correct gender biases in their legal systems, repeal biased laws and policies and modify social attitudes that sponsor gender inequality.

 

Krook, M. L., & Sanin, J. R. (2016). Gender and political violence in latin America. Política y gobierno23(1). DOI: http://mlkrook.org/pdf/pyg_2016.pdf Retrieved on 2016 November, 21.

This article surveys how the concept of VAWIP has been defined by academics and practitioners across Latin America, and notes that it is largely in terms of physical and psychological violence. The article draws on secondary data and research from various disciplines and proposes the expansion of the concept of VAWIP. The articles begins by establishing that there is a major shift towards gender equality in elected office, and measures such as gender quotas have been put in place to achieve better results. However, the article notes that gendered political environments continue to create difficulties and affirmative action, such as quotas, can cause a backlash which may take the form of violence. The author notes that this has caused concerns among international non-governmental organizations across the world,  particularly in Latin America.

The article is divided into four parts. The first section addresses the “state of the art” across Latin America in terms of debate around “political violence and political harassment against women” along with tracing the development of this dialogue. In the second section, the article engages with various academic literature to distinguish VAWIP from related concepts, and theorises the causes behind its occurrence and the significance of the particular forms it takes.

The third section of the article incorporates feminist and non-feminist research and scholarship on violence and contends that apart from physical and psychological violence, economic and symbolic violence should be included in the definition of VAWIP. In this section, the authors also provide the reader with examples of all four types of violence to substantiate the proposal of the revised framework. The final section of the article considers theoretical and practical implications of opting for different definitions. The  authors assert that widening of the definition is important to fully understand the nature of the issue as well as for developing effective solutions for it. They emphasise that a comprehensive approach best tackles the issue.

The article reveals the existence of widespread resistance to full political incorporation of women globally, but particularly in Latin America. Most importantly, the article asserts that VAWIP poses a threat to core democratic values when public officials are prevented by way of intimidation and coercion to prevent them from performing their duties. Thus, the authors assert that VAWIP not only threatens to hollow out national and international commitments to gender-balanced decision-making, but can also affect the integrity of the political system itself. They emphasise that attending to these issues is important not only for women interested in pursuing a political career, but also citizens and the academic community at large.

 

Krook, M. L., & Sanín, J. R. (2016). violence Against Women in Politics. Política y gobierno23(2). DOI: http://mlkrook.org/pdf/pyg_2_eng_2016.pdf Retrieved on 2016 November, 21.

This article has been published as a response to Jeniffer Piscopo’s (2016) critical assessment of the article “Gender and political violence in Latin America-Concepts, debates and solutions” by Krook & Sanin (2016). This article addresses the misinterpretations made by Piscopo and also augments the original article with their thinking informed by seminar discussions, conversations, readings, news items and original interviews conducted in the year preceding the publication of this article.

The authors argue against Piscopo who states that VAWIP is simply a subcategory of violence in politics more generally. Piscopo states that it is a phenomenon which is explained by weak state capacity and criminal justice systems and do not  violate only  women’s political rights but also other laws and legislations. The authors contend that VAWIP is distinct from violence in politics and that it seeks to prevent women’s participation as women. They also recognise the prevalence of this issue and the influence that different contexts have on the content and prevalence of different categories of violent acts. Further, the authors assert that VAWIP is more than just a criminal issue and one which poses a serious challenge to democracy, human rights and gender equality.

The authors argue against Piscopo’s assessment that scholars have accepted activists’ definitions at face value and state that emerging academic studies bring new tools to bear on the definitions of the phenomenon of VAWIP. The authors further make a very important assertion that solutions to address the occurrence of VAWIP should be pursued not only by the state but also by a host of different actors and stakeholders. They note that while the issue of VAWIP is being taken up globally and gaining ground speedily, academic studies are still nascent and emerge primarily out of Latin America. In conclusion, the authors encourage scholars and activists not to abandon the concept of VAWIP and instead work together to bring this issue into focus.

  

Bardall, G. (2013). Gender-specific election violence: the role of information and communication technologies. Stability: International Journal of Security and Development2(3). DOI: http://www.stabilityjournal.org/article/view/sta.cs/ Retrieved on 2016 November, 21.

The author begins by establishing that the influence of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) has paralleled development of women’s political participation globally. The author also establishes that women’s experiences of election violence fundamentally differ from men and may take place within the public as well as private spheres, and are distinguishable by their forms and frequencies. The author notes that women experience one-third as many direct physical attacks as men but are three times as likely to experience psychological violence. Further, the author asserts that, coupled with the threats of physical and sexual violence, these forms of election violence are the most devastating for women and are most often orchestrated through social media.

Giving evidence of acts that inflict psychological harm or the fear of it, the author notes that ICTs are often used as tools of gender-specific and electoral violence against women in political life or holding public office. The author also cites examples from Kenya, U.S.A, and U.K among others while discussing the various ways in which social media is used as a tool for intimidation or incitement for violence against women in elections (VAWE). The author notes the moral implications for this kind of violence carry a higher social cost for women owing to the imbalances in what constitutes ‘moral behavior’ for male and female politicians. The author also discusses the benefits that the perpetrator has by way of legal and moral impunity due to the difficulty of regulating and punishing such attacks.

Interestingly, the author also asserts that the same ICTs offer innovative solutions for prevention and mitigation of violence such as monitoring and documentation, education, providing platforms for raising awareness and through empowerment and advocacy. The author notes that one of the biggest advantages of ICTs has been to collect and document incidents of VAWE which helps in recognising its existence and thus establishing a baseline for progress.

In conclusion, the author states that innovative use of ICTs for combatting election and political-related violence against women still have far to go in catching up the threats posed by these ICTs to cause violence against women. She emphasises that it is necessary to understand the underlying dangers presented by social media, and encourages elections-rights and gender-rights advocates and practitioners to integrate best practices from their mutual fields in doing so.

 

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

AWID……..Association for Women’s Rights in Development

DOI…………Digital Object Identifier

ICT…………Information and Communication Technology

IPU…………Inter-Parliamentary Unit

HRD……….Human Rights Defender

MENA…….Middle East and North Africa

MP…………Member of Parliament

SAP………..South Asia Partnership

SuS…………Surveillance System

U.K…………United Kingdom

U.N…………United Nations

U.S.A………United States of America

U.S…………United States (of America)

VAWE…….Violence Against Women in Elections

VAWIP…..Violence Against Women in Politics

WHRD……Women Human Rights Defender

 

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