Remarks by Sama Shrestha, UN Women, Nepal at the launch of the ICTJ’s Report on ‘Addressing the Rights and Needs of Nepal’s Wives of the Disappeared’

Date: Thursday, August 29, 2013

Honourable Member of the NWC, Honourable Under Secretary of MOPR, Victims, Representatives, Representative of ICTJ and Other Distinguished Guests. Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Afternoon.

It gives me great pleasure to be here today for the launch of the International Center for Transitional Justice report on ‘Addressing the Rights and Needs of Nepal’s Wives of the Disappeared’ on the eve of the International Day of the Disappeared.

Earlier this year, [1] the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances issued a general comment on women affected by enforced disappearances.[2] The general comment argued for the incorporation of a gender perspective ‘in all measures, including legislative, administrative, judicial and others, taken by States, when dealing with enforced disappearance’, highlighting that ‘[g]ender equality in the area of enforced disappearances primarily requires that all individuals – regardless of their sex or gender – enjoy without discrimination the rights enshrined in the Declaration for the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearances.’[3]

The general comment rightly pointed out that ‘[t]he application of the principle of gender equality requires a full understanding of the different roles and expectations of the genders to effectively overcome issues that hinder the attainment of gender equality and full enjoyment of women’s rights.’[4] As highlighted by the Working Group, ‘women and girls are victims of enforced disappearances as disappeared persons, as relatives of someone who has disappeared or as any other person suffering harm as a result of an enforced disappearance.’[5] The Working Group in effect noted that ‘the effects to enforced disappearances are lived and faced in different ways by women and girls due to gender roles, which are deeply embedded in history, tradition, religion and culture.’[6]

War and armed violence have in fact always had a different impact on men and women, but the gender dimensions of conflict have often been forgotten or ignored. The understanding that women and girls are ‘impacted uniquely and disproportionately by the direct and indirect effects of conflict and its aftermath’[7] has only started to inform the design of policy and programmatic interventions in the past decade, strengthened by Security Council resolutions 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010) and 2106 (2013) calling for ‘women’s involvement in all aspects of post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding, and providing justice and redress for conflict-related abuses of women’s rights.’[8]

Transitional justice – ‘the range of mechanisms employed to achieve redress for past human rights violations’ – is an increasingly important component of UN efforts to strengthen the rule of law in post-conflict contexts. It also forms a crucial element of the peacebuilding agenda in countries undergoing such transition phases.[9] A guiding principle of UN engagement in transitional justice activities is the need to ‘strive to ensure women’s rights’[10] and an underlying recognition that ‘for women’s conflict-related violations sends a strong message about equal access to justice and application of the rule of law.’[11]

UN Women believes that ‘[t]ransitions provide opportunities to further gender justice, in particular through the implementation of a gender-sensitive transitional justice agenda. Transitional justice processes can be leveraged not simply to secure justice for individual human rights violations, but also to address the context of inequality and injustice that gives rise to conflict, transforming the structures of inequality that underpin this violence.’[12]

It is in light of the above that UN Women globally, as well as in Nepal, is engaged in supporting gender responsive transitional justice initiatives. In Nepal, UN Women has work with the Government, civil society, victim groups and expert organisations, such as ICTJ, to support the development of gender responsive transitional justice initiatives. These initiatives have covered both national and local levels. This piece of research is part of UN Women’s support for gender responsive transitional justice initiatives in Nepal.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend the International Transitional Justice Centre for undertaking this particular piece of research on this important issue of women affected by disappearances. The piece is an exemplary contribution to furthering our understanding of the gendered impact of conflict on a particular group of conflict affected women, and provides an invaluable basis for designing gender responsive interventions to further the rights and needs of the group.



[1] On 14 February 2013
[2] Human Rights Council Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, General comment on women affected by enforced disappearances adopted by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances at its ninety-eight session (31 October – 9 November 2012), 14 February 2013, A/HRC/WGEID/98/2
[3] Ibid, p.1, para.3
[4] Ibid, p.1, para.2
[5] Ibid, p.1, para.2
[6] Ibid, p.1, para.2
[7] Report of the Secretary General on The Rule of Law and Transitional Justice in Conflict and Post Conflict Societies (Oct 2011), para. 42, p.12
[8] UN Women, A Window of Opportunity: Making Transitional Justice Work for Women (Oct 2012), p.1
[9] Ibid, p.1
[10] United Nations, ‘Guidance Note of the Secretary-General: United Nations Approach to Transitional Justice’ (March 2010) cited in ibid, p.1
[11] UN Women, 2012, p.1
[12] Ibid, p.1