By: Diletta Cosco and Anna Toniolo.

The United Nations (UN) resolution 1325 was officially adopted in October of the 2000 by the UN security council. The resolution addresses several critical points in the context of post-war and peacebuilding process by recognizing an “urgent need to mainstream a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations”. The resolution highlights the importance of women as active agents of change in peacebuilding processes; the emphasis is put on the importance of their participation in every aspect of post-conflict period but also on their need to be protected along with the necessity to include women in field operations and give a “ gender component” to peacebuilding missions. In the resolution, women along children are portrayed as the most vulnerable categories in a conflict situation. Although, a special attention is given to the vulnerability of women and girls during conflict; speaking of which, the resolution manifests the urgency to give specialized trainings to peacekeeping personnel in order to address their protection and special needs and the necessity to gather further data on women and girls’ violence during conflict and post-conflict. 

United Nations Security Council resolution (UN SCR) 1325 represents a landmark document because it represents the first time that the UN identified women as “constructive agents of peace, security and post-conflict reconstruction”. Although this resolution is presented as a turning point in gender mainstreaming within the UN, we should not read this as a positive evolution of the lives of women and men in conflict zones. In fact, the language and the models used in resolution 1325 perpetuate patriarchal norms and weaken the UN’s ability to de-gender peace and security. In this sense it is worthy to underline that the stipulations of UN SCR 1325 are “women-centric”, inscribing gender mainstreaming operations on opposite tracks in which gender has been interpreted as woman, and woman remain differentiated from men weakening their agency and perpetrating the patriarchal pattern of hegemonic masculinity. The concept of “hegemonic masculinity” is associated with domination and power and this means that men are generally portrayed as the perpetrators of violence and the actors responsible for signing peace agreements, as they are seen as the most active participants in violence and conflict, thus denying women's ability to assert themselves and make decisions.

Furthermore, in UN SCR 1325 women are represented solely in gendered terms, excluding structural variables, inhibiting women acting as agents with truly transformative potential. In the vision of the French anthropologist Françoise Héritier, every time that sex is used as a sociological variable, it is accepted that women belong to a different category, putting them in a position of inferiority relative to a masculine norm of reference. In this regard, resolution 1325 perpetrates constructions of gender that assume it as a synonymous with biological sex, reproducing logics of identity that mark women as fragile and in need of protection. The conservancy of a stereotyped language in the document removes women’s agency and maintains them in the subordinated position of victims, defining women as civilians, vulnerable and in association with children. Associating women with children leads to an essentialist definition that categorize women as vulnerable and as mothers, resulting in the maintenance of a powerful assumption which sees women as one of the subjects who must be protected. Thus, it seems difficult to promote the participation of women in peace negotiations and in post conflict resolution, since they are considered primarily as caretakers and victims affected by war, with little possibilities to have a more dynamic role, subordinating them to male-dominated decision-making circles. In this sense, another important element to highlight is the emphasis on conflict-related sexual violence, which is treated like a plague only for women, with a systematic reluctance to confront the reality of that violence against men and boys, carrying out the patriarchal binary model of male-female gender power

Patriarchal norms are committed also by “re-sexing” of gender, in particular including women in peacekeeping missions which are highly masculinized in nature, appearing to be a case of “add women and stir” without really challenging the masculinist norms that dominate that type of missions. 

In the end, it can be said that even if resolution 1325 represents a shift toward a more inclusive global governance, it belongs to a discursive framework that is still dominated by state-centric, militaristic, and patriarchal practices.