Women in war and at war conference

10 May 2012

The first ‘women in war and at war’ conference, which will look at sexual and gender based violence against women during wartime, will be held at Aberystwyth University from Friday 11 to Saturday 12 May.

Sexual and gender based violence is one of the greatest threats to human rights in modern wars and continues to be used as a deliberate strategy and illegitimate method of warfare, which poses serious threats to women’s lives even long after the fighting has stopped.

The two-day conference has been organised by Professor Ryszard Piotrowicz and Dr Anél Boshoff, both of the Department of Law and Criminology at the University, as well as Olga Jurasz, a PhD student at the department and a Lecturer at the Open University.

In addition, Professor Chris Harding, Professor John Williams and Jennifer Phipps of the Department of Law and Criminology will make presentations, along with Dr Jennifer Mathers from the Department of International Politics.

The University will welcome 50 participants from all over the world and cover the following topics; Gender crimes and International Criminal Law; Case in focus: Afghanistan; Post-conflict violence and discrimination; Women and war in literature, film and art; Women after armed conflict.

Professor Piotrowicz explains, “Women are often perceived as victims of warfare because of sexual violence, forced displacement and other factors. While this is correct, women are also protagonists and may even be empowered by their experiences during armed conflict. These are the issues that the conference will address.”

Recent reports by the press and media about the Libyan war zone exposed the use of sexual violence by Colonel Gaddafi’s forces, especially rape, as a weapon of war.

Although International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law clearly prohibit the use of sexual and gender based violence, the international community is confronted with the reality of continuing gender warfare. 

Developments in international criminal law have encouraged the long overdue prosecution of wartime sexual and gender based violence at an international level.

They have also emphasised the fact that women too can be perpetrators of violence and that they actively participate in combat as freedom fighters, guerrilla fighters and also members of regular armies.