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Women in Blue HelmetsGender, Policing, and the UN's First All-Female Peacekeeping Unit$

Lesley J. Pruitt

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780520290600

Published to California Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520290600.001.0001

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Increasing Women’s Participation in Peace and Security

Increasing Women’s Participation in Peace and Security

(p.100) 6 Increasing Women’s Participation in Peace and Security
Women in Blue Helmets

Lesley J. Pruitt

University of California Press

Abstract and Keywords

Chapter 6 considers the possibilities and limitations for women’s participation in peacekeeping. It recommends understanding the FFPU as an alternative to gender mainstreaming, perhaps as a temporary special measure. FFPUs could be developed alongside existing efforts to expand gender-integrated peacekeeping forces. FFPUs appear to be a step in the right direction, though it is important to recognize that they should not be expected to solve all the problems women face when it comes to peace and security. Moreover, a shift in understanding is needed away from seeing women as super-heroines who are naturally adept at solving the problems necessary for peacekeeping. The effective pursuit of peace requires work from both men and women, including peacekeepers, policy makers, and practitioners, as well as the broader society.

Keywords:   alternative, policy, gender mainstreaming, temporary special measure, integration, peacekeeping, women

As for me, when we’re talking about equality, it should be real equality. I mean, if you can make some quotas, even if it could be 50/50 but not whol[ly a] women’s unit … or a men’s unit. It would be good to have half/half. (Ukraine)

I’d prefer to see more inclusion [of] police officers than formed police units. I think the formed police unit, you’ve even got to look at the culture of the countries that they come from—and it’s like safety in numbers, sending the women over together… We’ve had very few, if any, Indian IPOs [Individual Police Officers] here that are females … I think that I’d rather see more [of those] actually than [them] coming as a safe pack. (UK)

As long as they’re well trained, I have no objection as to who comes, male or female. If an FFPU [all-female formed police unit] is needed, that’s fine. I like someone who knows how to handle a weapon, that’s what they are responsible for. (USA)

Female peacekeeping officers serving in mixed-gender environments in Liberia, when asked what they think of the concept of FFPUs

Scholars and policy makers have posited numerous benefits of including women as peacekeepers. Researchers have suggested that the presence of female police has calmed dangerous situations, that female mission staff lead to more “civilized” behavior among the mission staff overall with far fewer criticisms of personal and professional behavior than male staff receive, and (p.101) that their inclusion results in more effective missions, which are seen as having added legitimacy.1 For example, some have argued that the presence of women means fewer cases of HIV, brothels near peacekeeping bases, and children abandoned by male peacekeepers after the mission. Moreover, studies of women peacekeepers compared to their male colleagues show that women “have significantly lower rates of complaints of misconduct,” “improper use of force,” and “inappropriate use of weapons.”2 In contrast, there are many high-profile reports of male peacekeepers facing accusations of sexually abusing or assaulting those they are meant to serve.3 Plus, research has found that women peacekeepers “are less authoritarian in interactions with citizens and lower-ranking officers. In addition, women officers respond more effectively to violence committed against women and are more likely to respond to domestic abuse claims. Most importantly women officers are seen as being able to diffuse [sic] potentially violent situations without the use of force more effectively than male counterparts.”4

In short, many have suggested that women are needed in peacekeeping at least in part because they can be expected to behave better than their male counterparts or to influence their male colleagues to behave better. Indeed, there is evidence that “the presence of women peacekeepers can and does foster a change in male behavior when women are deployed in PKOs [peacekeeping operations].”5 Furthermore, the UN has enumerated several other benefits from having a strong presence of women peacekeepers, including the creation of safer spaces for women and girls who have survived sexual violence, increased participation of women in national police forces, enhanced capacity for calming crowds in riots, and increased reporting of sexual violence.6 Sally Engle Merry suggests that when feminist movements challenge the notion that gendered violence is inevitable and inescapable its victims can become more willing to take legal recourse and justice institutions can become more willing to respect complainants and seriously consider their reports.7

Female peacekeepers have thus been cited as especially important in areas where sexual violence has been a feature of conflict and where there are cultural prohibitions on women’s discussing sexual matters with men. Several UN agencies have testified that women staff are needed across a range of the UN’s activities and note that this is especially pertinent in host mission sites where girls and women are unable to interact with (p.102) males who are not family members.8 For example, the UN Food Programme reported that victims often “prefer talking to a woman representing the international community than to fellow refugees about the violence they had suffered.”9 Likewise, Vlachova and Biason state that a lack of female police officers is a barrier to achieving justice, and others have argued that “local women are more likely to report crimes to women police.”10 In fact, researchers have found that reports of sexual assault go up with the number of women in the police force.11

Women affected by sexual violence, therefore, continue to face barriers to justice that are related to a lack of female personnel in peace operations. This may be mitigated to some extent where women are deployed as police peacekeepers. A UN police gender adviser in Liberia says, “The presence of female police officers in Liberia ha[s] helped a lot in the reporting of sexual and gender-based violence cases. It is not very easy for a woman to discuss sexual violence issues with a male officer,” but they “feel free to bring out their cases” when there are women police available.12

Given all these stated benefits, it is no surprise that the UN has cited a need for more women in peacekeeping.13 Resolution 1820 specifically called for “including wherever possible the deployment of a higher percentage of women peacekeepers or police,” and several experts have called for greater numbers of women in policing, the military, cease-fire monitoring, and other security forces.14 Indeed, getting more women involved in the security sector can create exponentially more involvement, since when women come into contact with other women working in the security sector they are more likely to join the security sector themselves.15 Finally, some evidence also suggests that gender-balanced groups are more likely to take gender into account and that women’s inclusion in decision making results in better policy outcomes for women.16

Obstacles to Recruiting more Women in Peacekeeping

Despite the increased attention to gender equity in peace and security and extensive discussions of the perceived benefits that may come from women’s participation in peacekeeping, limited headway has been made so far (p.103) in terms of increasing it. In 2012, at a regional dialogue in Monrovia entitled “Enhancing Women’s Leadership in Peace and Security in West Africa,” the UN Women representative in Liberia, Elizabeth Lwanga, concluded that reform efforts up until now have had little impact: “The instruments provided by the United Nations such as Resolution 1325 should have led to a better situation on women’s leadership in peace processes and peacebuilding.”17 Dialogue participants recommended addressing these issues through extended recruitment of women and strengthened support for their roles in the security sector.18

By the UN’s own report on ten years of impact, attempts to implement Resolution 1325 in peacekeeping have met with mixed results.19 While more states are in principle signing on to the Women, Peace and Security agenda, creating national action plans for implementing Resolution 1325, creating support organizations for women officers, increasing women’s security sector participation in administrative and professional roles, supporting women’s participation in electoral processes, and creating policies supporting gender mainstreaming, others aims have seen more modest outcomes, including protecting women from sexual violence in conflict, gaining commitment from senior leadership on the WPS agenda, and increasing the numbers of women peacekeepers.20 Although many countries have created recruitment policies that aim to be gender sensitive, very few countries have seen a significant increase of women’s proportional participation in national security institutions.21 Moreover, where more women have been recruited in police and military roles in peace support operations, the complex gender implications are not always necessarily positive.22

These limited outcomes reflect the many challenges and barriers to women’s participation in peacekeeping:

  1. (1) Nationally, women are less likely to join the security sector to begin with.

  2. (2) Internationally, women are less likely to become part of a peacekeeping contingent even if they are part of the national police service.

  3. (3) In the United Nations, “blue tape” can create structural barriers that disproportionately discriminate against women candidates.

  4. (p.104) (4) In actual peacekeeping deployment, women often face added challenges and expectations relative to their male counterparts.

These types of barriers are not always distinct, as they can often be related. For example, women may be less likely to take on a peacekeeping assignment because they are aware of the extra challenges they will face due to gendered expectations.

The National Context

There are many obstacles to women’s participation in security institutions at the national level. Charlotte Anderholt classes such obstacles into two categories: direct discrimination and systemic barriers.23 The former relates to the male-dominated culture of police units, while the latter relate to recruitment and hiring practices that keep many women from applying for jobs in policing because of the added domestic burdens that women are far more likely than men to carry. For example, hours are often inflexible and part-time opportunities may be nonexistent. Moreover, required universal physical fitness tests are often cited as a barrier to recruiting women. Such tests are often set using a male baseline, which reduces both the number of women applying (for fear of failing the test) and the number eligible to be hired. Such practices persist despite much criticism and questioning of the scientific evidence that these kinds of standards are necessary to do the job.24 Moreover, gender stereotypes of women as physically and emotionally weak have constituted barriers to their participation in peacekeeping.25 The UN’s own research reports have noted such challenges to women serving in peacekeeping, saying, “The culture of most national security institutions remains unfriendly to women; discrimination and sexual harassment of female officers are widespread.”26

Such experiences are also well documented in the wider literature. For example, in 2008, a female Los Angeles Police Department officer won a sexual harassment lawsuit against the department, which was found to have allowed an environment in which her male colleagues “excluded her from training opportunities,” made inappropriate comments, and exposed their genitalia.27 As Emma Birikorang found in her research on Liberian (p.105) efforts at security sector reform, even programs that have sought to streamline women’s paths to careers in national policing have faced difficulties in recruiting women.28 A UN report on a program designed to recruit women officers there noted that the main reasons for dropping out of the program were “family and social pressures; pregnancy or health issues; financial or transportation limitations.”29 As Sarah Hautzinger points out, women officers may also be held to lofty expectations that lead to their own and the public’s disillusionment when these cannot be met.30 Thus efforts that seek to include more women in the security sector need to attend to motivation and incentives for women to pursue careers in peacekeeping as well as barriers to their involvement.

Barriers to International Deployment

Even where women have been recruited to participate in national police forces, barriers exist to their deployment in international peacekeeping. Indeed, Anita Schjølset’s recent research in Norway has shown that even where a higher percentage of women have been recruited to the military at the national level, success at reducing the gap in participation in international missions has not been achieved.31 Therefore, she argues that alternative strategies ought to be pursued for targeting women for international military deployments. Statistics also show that US women are underrepresented in UN peacekeeping compared to their proportion of the national armed forces in the United States.32 Given that policing most often takes place in community contexts, women recruited in domestic police programs may have different motivations that make them even more unlikely to pursue international deployments. Thus attention must be given to identifying and implementing incentives that can motivate and support women to pursue career paths in international peace operations. As former UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) police adviser Kiran Bedi explained, “We get women police officers in peacekeeping only if the member-states forward their names. And usually they do not, even where they have good numbers, the reasons being their own country’s needs, women being low on priority compared with men and… general indifference. Many countries still have mere symbolic presence of (p.106) women in police work. Hence, they themselves are in need of correction. But we from the UN are pursuing forcefully the compelling need to increase the presence of qualified women candidates.”33

Even when women manage to surmount the obstacles to joining their national forces, they may still face discrimination when they want to take on roles in international peacekeeping missions to which their country contributes. For example, one Ukrainian woman working as an individual police officer for the UN Mission in Liberia explained:

In our country … I mean it is common to meet a woman police officer, approximately 20 percent, something like that. But … they didn’t want to give me this position, not the OIC [officer in command], the chief, only because of my age. I’m thirty, and my boss, he is a man. And in our country, for example, when a woman [gives birth to a] child she has the right to go … to maternity leave [for] three years…. For us it is very good. But for your promotion, of course, nobody wants to give you a good position because you will leave your job for three years, so it’s not possible. And then they’re happy that I had such an opportunity to apply for an international position … For me I am a bit proud, we have twenty participants from Ukraine in Liberia and two women among them.

In short, it is clear that women may face a variety of context-specific barriers to deploying to international peacekeeping missions even where they already have experience as police in their national services.

One survey of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which “has been highly proactive in trying to implement the goals of resolution 1325,” found that 69 percent of female officers felt women failed to apply to international peacekeeping missions “because agencies did not proactively recruit women.”34 And even when they are invited to join international policing missions and have a strong interest in doing so, women officers often decline to take up such postings, primarily because of a lack of support for their domestic responsibilities.35 Rather than moving toward greater flexibility for officers with family responsibilities, one could argue that recent changes pose further barriers. For example, “The [UN] Police Division now requests contributing countries to extend the tour of duty of FPU [formed police unit] personnel from six months to one year.”36 Such policies may further reify the notion that national police services should send only those who are able to spend increasingly long periods away from home. This may well deter them from recruiting (p.107) women with family responsibilities and may lead those women already in the force to turn down peacekeeping deployments.

“Blue Tape” at the United Nations

Despite existing national and international efforts to support more frequent deployment of women in international peacekeeping operations, there still exists significant “blue tape”—UN policies and practices that may hinder such efforts directly or indirectly. To begin with, traditionally the UN devotes little attention and few resources “to outreach and communication with organizations that can access qualified female candidates, or to marketing these positions in a way that will attract the best talent.”37 Moreover, the barriers the UN sets for participation in peacekeeping may also disproportionately affect women.

Currently, to participate in peacekeeping operations, one must have five years’ experience in the force of one’s home country, be part of a country supplying police, and be given permission or be chosen by the government to participate in peacekeeping as a police officer. These requirements mean the barriers to women’s participation are high. First of all, if a woman, even one who is already a police officer, is interested in working in peacekeeping but lives in a country that does not regularly recruit and deploy police for peacekeeping or offer fair conditions for women’s involvement, her access is obstructed. The required number of years of experience may also constitute an unnecessary barrier. For example, having many years of experience in a national police force does not necessarily correlate with ability to adequately address crimes of sexual and gender-based violence in international conflict. After all, as previously noted, most security specialists have little or no training in handling sexual and gender-based violence complaints, one of the major areas women peacekeepers have been expected to address on the basis of stereotypes about their “natural” ability in this area.

Given that women’s lives often include interrupted working patterns, the requirement of mid- to senior levels of experience in a national police force before one can even be considered for international operations may be an unnecessary impediment to recruitment of women. The requirements preclude participation by younger women, yet these are the women (p.108) who may have more flexibility to work abroad, as they may not yet have as many family commitments that require their presence. Women who meet the five-year requirement, in contrast, may be at a life stage that includes family commitments that make them less likely to serve internationally.38 The recent extension to length of deployments previously mentioned heightens this difficulty. Although the UN Police Division says that implementing less frequent rotations allows them to “to select more qualified FPU candidates, improves the level of professionalism of FPU personnel and directly increases operational capabilities by raising the level of experience among personnel in the field,” they do not consider how this might indirectly discriminate against potential female recruits. Interestingly, in discussions of this topic the DPKO did note that longer deployments would necessitate “greater welfare considerations,” but they emphasized only “the need to deploy adequate sports and recreation equipment to boost the morale of FPU personnel,”39 which appears inadequate to address the welfare concerns of women with family responsibilities who might like to serve. This is particularly salient given that reports have highlighted that the vast majority of women serving in the FFPU are mothers. In short, recruitment and deployment strategies that take the independent male figure with no family responsibilities as the starting point seem unlikely to see much advancement in terms of recruiting more women to the field.

Finally, one practical limitation has been that the existing infrastructure caters to single-sex units, which have historically been male. As former UN DPKO police adviser Mark Kroeker explained, “FPUs live together tightly in camps and dorms, so it’s easier to be single gender when living in tents together. The time is coming when, with proper accommodation, like in military operations, we send women all the time.”

Although FPUs usually rely on the deploying country to supply accommodation, practical issues associated with accommodation may be rectified soon through international efforts. Work is under way at the UN Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy, to produce architectural plans that will be used for developing modular policing infrastructure. According to the DPKO, “The standardized modular structures are being designed to be easily, quickly and inexpensively deployed. The goal of the project is to make it possible for UN Police and national counterparts in countries where the UN is deployed to be able to construct or obtain standard modules that can be (p.109) used and linked to create standardized police stations, offices, accommodations, training facilities, police cells, mobile police centres, armouries, command and control centres and police academies.”40

Barriers to Full Participation as Peacekeepers

Even once women are deployed in international peacekeeping, they face barriers to full participation. When, as is usually the case, they are deployed as part of male-majority units, they may encounter tension with their male colleagues, an absence of social support, and a general lack of gender-sensitive approaches.41 They may have the double burden of trying to meet high expectations while themselves facing dangers of sexual harrassment and exploitation from both local forces and their own colleagues, and even being expected to mediate conflicts between men in their own contingent.42

Research on female Norwegian peacekeepers suggests the need to temper heightened expectations of special contributions women can make in peacekeeping, as they reported that local people “react[ed] to their uniform ‘not [their] sex.’”43 Indeed, research has suggested that women in the masculine military setting of peacekeeping operations tend to accept and internalize the “boys will be boys” attitude as shared by and applied to their male colleagues.44 Some research has found female peacekeepers unwilling to report sexual abuse and exploitation offenses committed by their male colleagues against locals.45 When action is not taken in such cases, it can erode the trust of local women, making them unwilling to report offenses to peacekeepers.

Although women peacekeepers have been assumed to be “naturally” inclined to help address women’s issues, the hypermasculine environment often found in male-majority units may mean that only women who are the least interested in working with or supporting other women seek to join such units. Liora Sion, for example, noted that the women in the mixed-gender units she studied “preferred men’s presence to women’s,” with one explaining, “I get along well with the guys…. I wouldn’t like to serve with a platoon full of women, I don’t think I would be able to get along with them, I’m used to working with men.”46 Thus women who join such male-dominated groups must be willing to act as “one of the boys,” (p.110) downplaying any aspects of their gender or sexuality so that it cannot be held against them in an environment that does not value femininity.47 At the same time, many communicated ambivalence about femininity or sought to avoid it by avoiding interacting with other women and mocking those who were seen as stereotypically female.48 Such attitudes may be developed or reinforced in contexts where ideas and actors associated with femininity are delegitimized.

This may relate to findings from research on women’s participation as political representatives in democracies. Although female politicians report more liberal attitudes around topics seen as “women’s issues,” there are few differences in the policy proposals they make compared to male colleagues. This situation of not translating their ideas into policy has been explained as caused by the general lack of acceptance of women in the institution, so that the women there are unwilling to gamble their own standing to take on issues their male colleagues do not see as legitimate.

Some challenges faced by women peacekeepers appear to be particular to their participation in male-majority units. As their gendered status coincides with the minority position in this context, women may face challenges of tokenism.49 They also tend to hold traditionally feminine roles, like medical-related positions or administrative jobs.50 The FPU coordinator in Liberia at the time of the first FFPU deployment recalled the FFPU commander stating that integration of men and women in peacekeeping units tended to create some problems. For example, he said, the Nigerian peacekeeping force at the time was 80 percent male and 20 percent female, but the women cooked, cleaned, and did administrative work, not policing. For this reason, UN reports have described the inclusion of female peacekeepers in mixed-gender Nigerian and Ghanaian Battalions as “a potential best practice, not as a best practice. The reason is that these peacekeepers hold supportive as opposed to direct impact roles.”51

Research suggests that women’s restriction to gender-stereotypical roles in peacekeeping is often the result, not of their own preferences or choices, but of stereotypes applied to them by their male colleagues and the institutions they serve. For example, according to Vandra Harris and Andrew Goldsmith’s study on Australian policewomen serving in police (p.111) peacekeeping roles in East Timor, women reported facing “gender-based exclusion within the UN police force, including exclusion of women from front-line policing in spite of their relevant experience.”52 And a UN policy dialogue on enhancing gender balance in peacekeeping reported concerns about women peacekeepers’ restriction to “tasks designated as ‘women’s issues,’ such as working on sexual violence or family support issues,” and urged instead that they be “assigned to work on a whole range of peacebuilding functions.”53

But when women step outside such restrictions and take on roles that are male dominated, including policing, research shows they have a significant likelihood of being harassed, and if they fail to follow gender stereotypes the harassment levels tend to increase.54 According to one unpublished United Nations report, for example, female police officers in Afghanistan reported “pervasive sexual violence and harassment by their male colleagues.”55 Similarly, Harris and Goldsmith’s study of Australian women peacekeepers in East Timor found that the women’s most commonly reported difficulties stemmed from the hostility and sexist behavior of their male colleagues.56 These challenges often arise when women are isolated as tokens in a hypermasculine space.57

Prospects and Challenges for Women’s Participation in Peacekeeping through FFPUS

Given the problems that women peacekeepers encounter in male-majority units, the introduction of all-female units might assuage some of these concerns. Offering the option of participating in an all-female contingent with a few male support staff does not solve these problems on a broader level, but it does ensure that in these cases the women are able to draw on their relevant experience and take on key roles in ensuring peace and security. These roles may be apparent to both their host country and the deploying country and may give women better opportunities for future career advancement upon their return home than the prospects of women in male-majority units who were deemed police but tasked only with cooking and cleaning.

(p.112) Research has found that international forces modeling gender equality are more likely to lead to increases in political participation among local women and decreases in domestic violence in the host society.58 Though benefits may also accrue from simply having more women present, even in a sex-segregated unit, deploying women-only units may benefit both the women involved as police and the local communities. Mangai Natarajan, in her extensive research on the Indian domestic policing experience, found that all-women units operating domestically within India’s national police service built the confidence of women police, enhanced their professionalism, and provided effective and efficient policing.59

The FFPU in Liberia has contributed to the local population not only by keeping the peace but by serving as role models for women and children and volunteering for numerous community tasks outside their main duties as peacekeepers—activities that apparently are not expected from male peacekeepers. They have been noted for “encouraging literacy among women” and “providing skills training to youths, especially girls”—for example, the summer camp for girls that teaches first aid and self-defense.60 As noted earlier, the FFPU also offers clean drinking water and free medical care in accessible areas near schools and hospitals.61 This has been linked with better overall security, as the UN Mission in Liberia has suggested that reducing competition for scarce resources in this way has helped instill calm and reduce petty crimes driven by poverty.62

Finally, the FFPU has increased interest among Liberian women about taking on security sector roles. Reports from outside the UN indicate a significant increase in the number of women recruited into the Liberian National Police since the group’s introduction.63 Indeed, US ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli stated that “the effect on Liberian women was reported to be significant and almost immediate: the number of women applying to join the LNP [Liberian National Police] tripled from approximately 120 to 350 in the two months after the arrival of the first FPU.”64 This may be partly because the presence of the FFPU increases awareness that women can take on such roles, and partly because FFPU officers also participate in activities such as visiting and speaking at high schools and universities and at career fairs.65

(p.113) Moreover, the indirect impacts of the Indian FFPU in Liberia have been felt much further afield. For example, the Indian FFPU reportedly “inspired the launch of a women’s corps in the peacekeeping contingent of the Civil Protection Component (CPC) of the Malaysia-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao, Philippines.”66 It also inspired Nigeria and Bangladesh to create their own all-female units and encouraged other countries like Ghana and Rwanda to increase their contributions of female troops in UN missions.67 This may be related to the claim that imposing Western gender “integration” models on policing is not always effective in different contexts, which may require more culturally sensitive approaches.68 At the same time, given that after the FFPU’s introduction, Liberia reached a significantly higher percentage of women police than the USA, one could argue that existing approaches to gender integration in policing do not necessarily work so well even in the contexts that have typically proposed and supported them. In any case, the findings presented here regarding the FFPU confirm and add to Karim’s point that “it appears that one way to increase the presence of women in institutions is through other women.”69

Challenges of All-Female Police Units

Even some feminist scholars are critical of all-women’s police units because they see them as essentializing women as best to work with women. However, as Shannon Drysdale Walsh points out, such programs can create important change by offering specialized training for addressing crimes against women.70 Also, by creating more opportunities for women to become security sector specialists, they counter essentialist views of women and challenge stereotypes of women as victims needing protection from men.71

At the same time, it is important to avoid rhetoric in support of FFPUs that draws on stereotypes and situates officers as “superheroines” whose capacity extends far beyond providing physical security in postconflict zones. FFPU members are often seen and indeed expected to bring many “extras” to the peacekeeping context above and beyond the provision of (p.114) postconflict security, and these extras tend to involve carework that women are expected to be naturally more adept than men at providing. Yet while women living in zones where peacekeepers are deployed may be more likely to bring their claims to women officers, this is not necessarily because women peacekeepers are naturally more empathetic and open to their claims. Instead it may be because, unlike the men, women are expected to be more open to these claims. Additionally or alternatively it may be because as women these officers have experienced or witnessed gendered denials of justice that have made them more sensitive in responding to women.

While such issues have not been studied in depth in police peacekeeping, studies of military peace operations may be relevant. Laura Miller and Charles Moskos, in their research on American military members’ perceptions of civilians in Somalia, found that although all soldiers were frustrated by some the behavior of locals, female and black male soldiers were more likely than white male soldiers to resist negative stereotyping and to seek to understand the locals as humans who were responding as anyone would to an awful situation.72 The authors explain this resistance as based on personal experience of harmful gender or race stereotypes and consequently the feeling that stereotypes could unfairly dehumanize locals and entrench existing problems.73 For similar reasons, as well as heightened expectations based on stereotypes, women police peacekeepers may be more likely to respond to crimes against local women. However, their doing so may also increase expectations of them and their workload or duration of deployment. For example, with regard to India’s FFPU in Liberia, “What was supposed to be a six-month deployment was extended, because the female police officers were more willing to deal with the psychosocial effects of trauma.”74

Given the obstacles to female peacekeeping service presented by mixed-gender units, the FFPU could usefully be understood as an alternative interpretation of gender mainstreaming, and perhaps at least initially conceived of as a temporary special measure. From this perspective, further FFPUs could be developed alongside existing efforts at increasing the gender integration of peacekeeping units. Increasing women’s access to participation in peacekeeping will not be easy or happen overnight, but it is necessary. FFPUs appear to be one step in the right direction, though it (p.115) is important to recognize that they cannot and should not be expected to solve all the problems women face when it comes to peace and security. Women are not some superpowered group naturally equipped to solve the problems blocking the way of peace. On the contrary, building sustainable peace will require work from both men and women, including peacekeepers, policy makers, humanitarian agency staff, members of community organizations, and the wider society.


(10.) Vlachova and Biason, Women; Harris and Goldsmith, “Gendering Transnational Policing”; Rehn and Sirleaf, Women, War and Peace. Moreover, one expected outcome of women’s police stations in Brazil was that having all-female staff would avoid the common bias of male police minimizing or ignoring women’s complaints, blaming women complainants, and overall not taking their complaints seriously. It was hoped that women police would identify more with their fellow women and experience empathy with their plights, rather than further victimizing them. Unprecedented recording of gender-based crimes has occurred, and prosecution and conviction rates for these offenses have risen significantly, though the rates remain unsatisfactory. See Hautzinger, Violence in the City, 2, 137, 187.

(16.) Ibid., 7.

(21.) Ibid., 10.

(24.) Ibid., 45.

(35.) Ibid., 46.

(45.) Ibid.

(48.) Ibid., 580.

(49.) Ibid., 579.

(73.) Ibid., 628.