UN Envoy Emphasizes Important Role of Libyan Women
April 9, 2015
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At a recent gathering in Libya’s capital of Tripoli, 250 Libyan women came to hear a briefing from Bernardino Leon, Special Representative and head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya(UNSMIL). At this briefing, aimed at incorporating women into the political process and rebuilding of the nation, Leon stressed the important role that women play in bringing the country together.
Leon told these Libyan women that UNSMIL counts on them to keep pushing for a peaceful resolution and “to spread the culture of peace in your communities and to talk and engage with all who have a role to play in bringing stability to Libya.” He also gave information to the group about the ongoing political discussion regarding ceasefire agreements, emphasizing that peace must continue to be advocated for.
This emphasis on the role of women in moving the dialogue process along, reconciling differences among those involved, and making sure that political agreements that may be reached are implemented is interesting, giving the fact that women have suffered greatly from the violence in Libya. It is also interesting in light of the recent class discussions we have had about women’s involvement in transitional justice and how sexual violence crimes are often considered lesser crimes in these conflict situations. In the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we saw women reluctant to come forth with testimony, whether because it would be too re-traumatizing, linguistic barriers made communication too difficult or frustrating, or there was great fear of public backlash against them, especially if they were to call out ANC brethren for their crimes against them.
Here, it is refreshing to see the role of women being emphasized when it comes to transitional justice. The fact that women and women’s’ groups are coming together to participate in political dialogue is an important stepping stone for post-conflict justice. This is particularly true for Libya, as recent reports have indicated the inadequacy of Libyan law in dealing with domestic and sexual violence, as well as public perceptions among both men and women that domestic violence is acceptable. Perhaps with more involvement from women in peace negotiations and rebuilding efforts, women can have the effect of changing some of these institutions that serve to legitimize violence against women and can alter public perceptions about the acceptable treatment of women. By doing so, women’s involvement in transitional justice may help to prevent future violence and discrimination against women in the country.