Violence against women is one of history’s great silences. During conflict, women are brutally raped, beaten, and killed. After conflict, the violence continues. Domestic violence is often the most commonly reported crime in postconflict societies. Moreover, in the absence of a functioning justice system, crimes against women, such as trafficking and forced prostitution, are perpetrated with impunity. In peacetime, women may also be subject to violence. From many women’s perspective, justice systems are inaccessible at best and discriminatory at worst.

Addressing gender discrimination, the lack of access to justice for women, and accountability for gender violence is integral to rule of law promotion after conflict. For many organizations, such as the United Nations, gender needs to be “mainstreamed” so that it is considered in every rule of law program. Specific reforms implemented by governments to address gender discrimination, lack of access to justice for women, and lack of accountability for gender violence have included (1) the development of women’s professional associations and nongovernmental organizations; (2) legislative reform in areas of particular importance to women and girls, such as gender-based violence, family, property, and land tenure; (3) the establishment of special judicial capacity to try sexual violence cases; (4) steps to ensure the adequate representation of professional women within justice institutions; and (5) strengthening the gender sensitivity of justice actors (United Nations, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Policy: Justice Components in United Nations Peace Operations, p. 8) Additionally, including women’s voices and concerns in reform activities is crucial to promoting gender equality (United Nations, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Primer for Justice Components in Multidimensional Peace Operations: Strengthening the Rule of Law, p. 42)

Below are links to various resources on how to promote gender issues and address discrimination, lack of access to justice, and gender violence as part of rule of law efforts.

See also Access to Justice for general resources on access to justice.