Feminist ripostes to the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine

The concept that the experience of armed and societal conflict is gendered has been repeatedly confirmed by the Security Council in relation to the Women, Peace and Security agenda. However, the Responsibility to Protect doctrine has often claimed gender-neutrality in its response to conflict, or simply ignores gender issues other than ‘mass rape’. Hilary Charlesworth’s analysis in 2010 was that the doctrine in fact offers ‘gendered and racialised accounts of peace and conflict and the capacity of intervention to defuse violence’.

However, in the last three years, there has been attempts to create or explore the potential for alignment between the Women Peace and Security Agenda and R2P around the goal of accountability for sexual violence in conflict (Davies et al, 2013).

My reading of contemporary conflicts before the Council such as Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Afghanistan show that Charlesworth’s critique of R2P remains valid and may have become more entrenched. But there has undoubtedly been recognition of this critique and more movement around the protection agenda of R2P advocates, in the area of the prevention of, and increased accountability for sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). This could be interpreted as a sign of engagement with a feminist agenda of women’s empowerment and participation, but also interpreted as a sign of the paternalist and essentialist gender politics observed in the founding documents of R2P as a concept. Will approaches to bolster the R2P norm using inclusive gender language in fact start to distort the Women Peace and Security agenda?

Dr Susan Harris Rimmer is the Director of Studies at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, Research Associate at the Development Policy Centre in the Crawford School, Australian National University and winner of the Audre Rapoport Prize for Scholarship on the Human Rights of Women for 2006.

Susan was selected as an expert for the official Australian delegation to the 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in NY in March 2014, with the delegation headed by Minister Michaelia Cash and Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott-Despoja and is part of the Think20 process for Australia’s host year of the Group of 20 Leaders’ Summit in Brisbane 2014.

Part of the 2014 Gender Institute Public Lecture series: Feminist Theory Now

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