Domestic Accountability for Sexual Violence: The Potential of Specialized Units in Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Uganda


Seelinger, Kim Thuy. 2015. “Domestic Accountability for Sexual Violence: The Potential of Specialized Units in Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Uganda.” International Review of the Red Cross 96 (894): 539–64.

Author: Kim Thuy Seelinger


From 2011 to 2014, the Human Rights Center at the UC Berkeley School of Law conducted qualitative research in Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Uganda to identify accountability mechanisms and challenges related to sexual violence committed during periods of conflict or political unrest. This article shares two aspects of that research: first, it presents key challenges related to the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of sexual violence committed during and after the periods of recent conflict. Second, it flags the emergence of specialized units tasked with investigating and prosecuting either sexual and gender-based violence or international crimes, noting the operational gap between these institutions. It notes that if not bridged, this gap may impede responses for the intersecting issue of sexual violence committed as an international crime. The article closes with recommendations for a more coordinated response and more accountability at the domestic level.

Keywords: sexual violence, conflict-related sexual violence, international crimes, Rome Statute, complementarity, accountability, wartime rape, specialized units, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Uganda

Topics: International Law, International Criminal Law, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence Regions: Africa, East Africa, West Africa Countries: Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Uganda

Year: 2014

The Role of Women in Peacebuilding


Schirch, Lisa, and Manjrika Sewak. 2005. "The Role of Women in Peacebuilding." Working Paper, Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict.


Authors: Lisa Schirch, Manjrika Sewak


In the last ten years, a powerful and expanding network of women began to strategize and articulate a global agenda for including women in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.  This paper gives a brief history of that network, examines the current concerns and tensions around women’s roles in peacebuilding, and provides examples, lesson’s learned, recommendations, and resources for civil society, government, and UN actors involved in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Conflict Prevention, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gender Mainstreaming, Peacebuilding, UN Security Council Resolutions on WPS, UNSCR 1325, Violence Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Asia, South Asia, Europe, Balkans Countries: India, Liberia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia (former)

Year: 2005

From Soldiers to Citizens, or Soldiers to Seamstresses: Reintegrating Girl and Women Soldiers in Sierra Leone


MacKenzie, Megan H. 2007. “From Soldiers to Citizens, or Soldiers to Seamstresses: Reintegrating Girl and Women Soldiers in Sierra Leone.” In . Chicago, IL.


Author: Megan H MacKenzie


Maintaining security in a post-conflict country is often seen to be dependant on peace-building and reconstruction. One can hardly escape terms such as building sustainable peace and post-conflict construction. The disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, and rehabilitation, or DDR-R process for former combatants is being touted as an ideal model for ensuring that post-conflict societies return to peace. These four simple steps to lasting security have been used as a model in war torn countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola. The logic is that these steps aid in restoring countries to more secure, stable times. More specifically, this model streamlines former combatants from soldiers to citizens. Given that the task of this process is to encourage combatants to shed their roles as fighters and to return to their former pre-war roles, it seems intuitive that the way that women and girls go through this process is of particular interest. In fact, despite the ascendancy of this DDR-R model, there has been little critical analysis of the implications of this process for women in war-torn countries. Using Sierra Leone as a case study, I explore how women and girls have been included and treated at each phase of this process. I look specifically at the tendency of organizations and agencies operating DDR-R programs to promote a return of women and girls to their pre-war roles and the tension that women and girls feel between the power they gained as combatants and the social pressure to reintegrate. I also examine the implications, for women and girls, of international and national organizations commitment to equating security with the return to pre-war society rather than rethinking relations of power. I include testimonies from 50 former girl soldiers who talk about their roles during the conflict and their hopes for themselves today.

Keywords: women, conflict, development, security, post-conflict, reintegration

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, "New Wars", Combatants, Child Soldiers, Female Combatants, DDR, Gender, Women, Girls, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization, Post-Conflict, Security, Human Security Regions: Africa Countries: Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone

Year: 2007

Comfort Women During WWII: Are U.S. Courts a Final Resort for Justice?


Park, Byoungwook. 2002. “Comfort Women During WWII: Are U.S. Courts a Final Resort for Justice?” American University International Law Review 17 (2).

Author: Byoungwook Park

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Democracy / Democratization, Gender, Women, International Organizations, Peacekeeping Regions: Africa Countries: Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Uganda

Year: 2002

Fighting Gender-Based Violence: The Women’s Movement and the Enforcement of Rape Law in Liberia


Medie, Peace. A. 2013. “Fighting Gender-Based Violence: The Women’s Movement and the Enforcement of Rape Law in Liberia.” African Affairs 112 (448): 377–97.

Author: Peace A. Medie


Many African states have adopted laws that criminalize rape and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV), but the enforcement of such laws is often weak. Many rape cases are never brought to court and victims are frequently encouraged to accept reconciliation instead of prosecution of offenders. Drawing on research from post-conflict Liberia, this article investigates the ability of women’s movements to influence the state’s implementation of rape law, and seeks to theorize the relationship between women’s activism and the enforcement of rape law. It documents the range of strategies adopted by the Liberian women’s movement, and argues that these tactics have contributed to an increased referral of rape cases to court. This was made possible by two conditions: a relatively open political environment and political and material support from international organizations, which in turn enabled women’s NGOs to gain access to and make an impression on the implementation process. This demonstrates the capacity of civil society organizations in Africa’s more open and internationally connected states to influence policy at the implementation stage – even in particularly challenging areas such as women’s rights. 

Topics: Civil Society, Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Governance, Post-Conflict Governance, International Organizations, NGOs, Post-Conflict, Rights, Women's Rights, Sexual Violence, SV against Women Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia

Year: 2013

Women and Postconflict Security: A Study of Police Response to Domestic Violence in Liberia


Medie, Peace A. 2015. “Women and Postconflict Security: A Study of Police Response to Domestic Violence in Liberia.” Politics & Gender 11 (3): 478–98.

Author: Peace A. Medie


"The aims of this article are to describe and examine how officers within the WACPS have responded to domestic violence and to study the factors that have influenced their actions. I draw on interviews and documentary evidence to describe the police’s approach to domestic violence before the civil war and examine how this approach has changed since the end of the war. I then discuss officers’ decision to either withdraw a domestic violence case or refer it to the court. This study advances our understanding of the policing of domestic violence in a postconflict African state" (Medie 2015, 478-9). 

Topics: Domestic Violence, Gender, Women, Post-Conflict, Security, Violence Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia

Year: 2015

Integrating Gender in Post-Conflict Security Sector Reform


Bastick, Megan. 2008. ‘Integrating Gender in Post-Conflict Security Sector Reform’. In SIPRI Yearbook. DCAF.

Author: Megan Bastick


The importance of security sector reform (SSR) has increasingly been empha- sized in international engagement with post-conflict countries. In February 2007 the United Nations Security Council stressed that ‘reforming the security sector in post-conflict environments is critical to the consolidation of peace and stability, promoting poverty reduction, rule of law and good governance, extending legitimate state authority, and preventing countries from relapsing into conflict’. National governments also identify SSR as a key tool in con- solidating their authority and healing divisions of the past. This chapter explores the case and methods for addressing gender issues in post-conflict SSR processes, drawing upon experiences in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Liberia, Peru, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste, and potential models from Serbia and South Africa. Section II further defines the concepts of SSR and gender, as well as their relationship to each other. The rationale for and experiences of gender mainstreaming in SSR and promoting the full and equal participation of men and women in SSR processes are discussed in section III, with practical examples from post-conflict settings. Section IV focuses on promoting women’s participation in post-conflict security services. Section V examines some challenges for key post-conflict SSR and SSR- related activities, including gender dimensions in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) processes, transitional justice and justice reform. Section VI summarizes the case for integrating gender into future SSR program- ming and policymaking and outlines the key opportunities and challenges. 


Keywords: gender, security sector reform, post-conflict, gender mainstreaming


Security sector reform (SSR) is essential to post-conflict peacebuilding in order to prevent the reoccurrence of conflict, to enhance public security, and to create the conditions for reconstruction and development. The importance of women’s participation and gender equality in peacebuilding and security is recognized by many governments and United Nations and donor agencies. However, efforts to promote these goals are often planned and implemented independently of each other, with the result that SSR fails to include women and to address the security needs of the entire population—including women, girls and boys.

Post-conflict SSR processes have used various approaches to address gender issues.

  • In Afghanistan, Kosovo and Liberia SSR measures to recruit and
    retain women, and to make security institutions more responsive to
    gender issues presented challenges but also yielded positive results.
  • In Peru, Sierra Leone and Timor- Leste truth and reconciliation commissions included mechanisms to address the experiences and justice needs of women.
  • Rwandan women parliamentarians made distinctive contributions to SSR by uniting across party and ethnic lines to address issues of women’s security.
  • In Liberia and Sierra Leone disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes contributed to developing operational procedures to ensure that women and girls are not excluded, and that the needs of men and boys are also addressed.
  • In Liberia and South Africa women’s civil society organizations were important partners in linking SSR with local security and justice concerns.

Gender mainstreaming—assessing the impact of SSR policies andactivities on women, men, boys and girls at every stage of the process—is a key strategy. It must be accompanied by steps to ensure that both men and women participate and are represented in SSRprocesses.

Participation of women in post-conflict security services is crucial to creating structures that are representative, trusted and legitimate,and are able to meet the security needs of both men and women.

‘Transitional justice’ and justice reform processes have madeadvances in responding to gender issues. Ad hoc criminal tribunals have prioritized prosecution of sexual violence.

Successful integration of gender in SSR shares the broader challenges of SSR. External actors can encourage and support, but initiatives must be led by local stakeholders. SSR has much to gain byintegrating gender.


Megan Bastick (Australia/United Kingdom) is Deputy Head of the Special Programmes Division at the 

Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).

Topics: Gender, Gender Mainstreaming, Governance, Post-Conflict Governance, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa, Americas, South America, Asia, South Asia, Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe, Oceania Countries: Afghanistan, Kosovo, Liberia, Peru, Rwanda, Serbia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Timor-Leste

Year: 2008

Building an Inclusive, Responsive National Police Service: Gender-Sensitive Reform in Liberia: 2005–2011


Bacon, Laura. 2012. ‘Building an Inclusive, Responsive National Police Service: Gender-Sensitive Reform in Liberia: 2005–2011’. No. 2013/114. WIDER Working Paper, 2013.  World Institute for Development Economics Research, United Nations University.

Author: Laura Bacon


After its 14-year civil war, Liberia worked with multiple donors and partners to restore security. This paper explores the Liberia National Police’s innovative efforts to create a more gender-sensitive police service and describes the international and domestic support it received in doing so. In particular, the paper analyses Liberia National Police’s efforts to (1) recruit female police officers and (2) train a specialized unit to address gender-related crimes. Ambitious recruitment efforts brought more women on board, but some critics regarded the related fast-track program as misguided or ineffective. The specialized unit increased awareness about and response to gender-based violence, but was impeded by a broken judicial system. Success factors of both projects included the timing (post-conflict window of opportunity), the context (momentum for gender-sensitive reforms), local ownership, a supportive president, and the nature of the aid (problem-driven interventions and iterative learning, vast financial and technical support, including dedicated and continuous support from the United Nations). However, the sustainability of projects’ successes remained uncertain, given Liberia’s extremely low technical capacity—especially its weak rule of law—as well as certain flaws in the program design.

Keywords: Liberia, police, reform, post-conflict, women, sexual and gender-based violence

Topics: Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence, SV against Women Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia

Year: 2013

Practicing Women, Peace and Security in Post-Conflict Reconstruction


Swaine, Aisling. 2015. “Practicing Women, Peace and Security in Post-Conflict Reconstruction.” In International Law and Post-Conflict Reconstruction Policy, edited by Matthew Saul and James A. Sweeney. New York, NY: Routledge.

Author: Aisling Swaine

Keywords: gender equality, women, peace and security, UN Security Council, Liberia, violence against women, Resolution 1325, feminist legal theory


"The advent of what is now referred to as the women, peace and security agenda (WPS), consisting of seven resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council, brought with it great expectations. The resolutions created hope that approaches to addressing armed conflict and post-conflict reconstruction would tackle entrenched gendered bias against women and become equitably reflective of the gendered economic, political and social justice concerns of both women and men. Since their adoption however, scholars and activists have critiqued the gaps that remain in securing implementation of the resolutions. As a chapter in a volume examining International Law and Post-Conflict Reconstruction Policy, this paper examines the tensions that arise between the potential gains that can be made for women under this framework, and the limited ways in which the resolutions have been conceptually developed and since inception, implemented. Through the example of Liberia’s National Action Plan on women, peace and security, this chapter examines the pros and cons of a bureaucratic translation of an international law instrument into a state-level administrative policy tool. The chapter highlights that such processes should be practically oriented towards tackling the root causes of the obstacles faced by women - the gender inequalities that pre-empted the conflict and endure in its aftermath."

(Social Sicence Research Network)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Men, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, International Law, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, UN Security Council Resolutions on WPS Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia

Year: 2015

Militarism, conflict and women's activism in the global era: Challenges and prospects for women in three West African contexts


Mama, Amina and Margo Okazawa-Rey. 2012. "Militarism, conflict and women's activism in the global era: challenges and prospects for women in three West African contexts." Feminist Review 101 (1): 97-123.

Authors: Amina Mama, Margo Okazawa-Rey


This article develops a feminist perspective on militarism in Africa, drawing examples from the Nigerian, Sierra Leonean and Liberian civil wars spanning several decades to examine women’s participation in the conflict, their survival and livelihood strategies, and their activism. We argue that postcolonial conflicts epitomise some of the worst excesses of militarism in the era of neoliberal globalisation, and that the economic, organisational and ideological features of militarism undermine the prospects for democratisation, social justice and genuine security, especially for women, in post-war societies. Theorisations of ‘new wars’ and the war economy are taken as entry points to a discussion of the conceptual and policy challenges posed by the enduring and systemic cultural and material aspects of militarism. These include the contradictory ways in which women are affected by the complex relationship between gendered capitalist processes and militarism, and the manner in which women negotiate their lives through both. Finally, we highlight the potential of transnational feminist theorising and activism for strengthening intellectual and political solidarities and argue that the globalised military security system can be our ‘common context for struggle’1 as contemporary feminist activist scholars.

Keywords: militarism, gender, armed conflict, West Africa, feminism, security

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Democracy / Democratization, Economies, Gender, Femininity/ies, Globalization, Justice, Livelihoods, Militarized Livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarism, Political Participation, Post-Conflict, Security Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone

Year: 2012


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