International gathering of women calls for stronger 'gender justice

50 feminist experts and leaders came together in Puerta Vallarta Mexico to build a global strategy for strengthening justice for women.

A group of 50 women from around the world–including international law experts and women’s rights activists from countries with armed conflict–came together in Mexico April 20-21 for the first time-ever to identify the key elements of a global strategy for strengthening justice for women.

“We are here to give voice to the desire for justice and the need for accountability for countless acts of violence against women around the world,” said Brigid Inder, the Executive Director of the Women’s Initiative for Gender Justice.  “There will be no lasting peace until women have justice–and no longer have to suffer from rape and other gender-based crimes sanctioned by leaders of their own countries.”

The meeting–convened by the Women’s Initiative for Gender Justice in collaboration with the Nobel Women’s Initiative–included participants from the Congo, Israel, Afghanistan, Honduras, Mexico and the United States.  Participants initiated the development of a strategy focusing on the use of ‘accountability mechanisms’ such as the ICC and regional courts to address violence against women.  The strategy will also identify recommendations for ensuring that peace negotiations include women, and also that women play a more important role in implementing peace treaties.

“At the turn of the century, about 5% of people who died in war were civilians,” said Joan Chittister, well-known writer and the Executive Director of The Global Peace Initiative of Women.  “But today, about 90% of the people who die in war are civilians–and women wear the brunt of those loses… War is obsolete. … Even when we win [the war], we lose.”

The meeting was held in advance of a 10-year review of the International Criminal Court (ICC), being held in Uganda next month.  The ICC was created in 1998 when 120 countries adopted the Rome Statute to end impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community–including rape as a weapon of war.  The ICC has cases in four countries:  Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic.

“Even if we have laws and systems in place for greater justice and equality, we know that this is only a beginning,” said Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998.  “There is much work left to be done–and while women did not create the violence, they will help bring it to an end.”