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Equality through sanctions

| Monday, April 18, 2016

While the world is aware of the hardships that face refugees living in the Jordan camps, such as Zaatari, the lack of protection for women against sexual and domestic violence is especially appalling. In an exposé done by The Guardian, reporters write that due to the frequency of sexual violence and lack of resources, families there are forcing their daughters into marriage. The average age of the girls in these marriages is 15 years old. Because of the young marriage age in combination with the religious aversion to contraceptives, of the 635,000 total registered refugees in the camp, 16,000 are pregnant with five percent being under the age of 18.

Unfortunately, the lack of state-provided physical and psychological protection for women in the Zaatari refugee camp is not unique. According to a study done in 2002, 150 million girls under the age of 18 reported suffered some form of sexual violence. Despite this statistic, only 2.4 percent of mediators and 3.7 percent of witnesses in peace negotiations between 1992 and 2011 were women, which is indicative of the lack of importance placed on developing women’s rights. Because of this disparity and the broader problem, both the American Foreign Relations Committee and the United Nations have focused on creating security policies that help incorporate women’s rights into the peacemaking process. In order to effectively promote women’s rights throughout the globe, the United States should focus its foreign policy on creating trade and economic policies that incentivize nations to prioritize gender equality. Imposing economic sanctions on counties that do not meet a certain standard of protection for women can accomplish this objective.

While women’s rights are definitely still an issue in affluent countries, such as the United States itself, these sanctions should primarily target developing and/or unstable countries, since these states have higher rates of gender equality violations. For example, the World Health Organization found that between 30 different developing countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, 200 million women and young girls experienced genital mutilation. Based on this type of violence and other factors, a study done by USA Today revealed the following countries to be some of the worst living conditions for females: Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Iran, Syria, Chad, Pakistan and Yemen. These countries should be the first ones to be sanctioned by the United States due to their high tolerance level for violence and exploitation of women; this would set a precedent to the rest of the world that the United States is serious about holding its trade partners accountable. Like the sanctions themselves, each targeted nation’s goals should be tailored to its current state of being. However, the following components should be used in every case to evaluate a nation’s progress toward gender equality: women’s education, workforce representation, protection against violence and civil liberties.

After analyzing how the United States can promote women’s rights through economic restrictions, it is important to refocus the discussion on why the world needs to make gender equality a priority. While the proposed sanctions will require time, money and manpower, the benefits women’s rights bring to the global peacemaking process far outweigh the costs.

In today’s warfare, peace treaties are no longer simply a ceasefire and a division of territory. They now lay the groundwork for future governance structures and social institutions. Therefore, it is vital that women are included in these negotiations so that their interests are represented. Not only can women help with negotiations, but also they can assist with victim survivors. Overall, women are able to contribute toward resolution 1325 of the United States Security Council, which focuses on their participation, protection, prevention and relief and recovery in the peacemaking process.

Of the 600 peace treaties that were signed between 1990 and 2009, only one percent included policies regarding women’s rights. Yet, 50 percent of sexual assaults reported worldwide are committed against girls under the age of 16. The juxtaposition of these two statistics proves that the world needs to bring women’s rights to the forefront of diplomacy. As a nation that champions equality and has the resources to influence other nations, the United States should impose economic sanctions on countries that are not working toward gender equality. While these sanctions may be expensive in the short-term, the long-term effects these sanctions would have on the promotion of women’s rights would be priceless.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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