UNODC mainstreams gender dimensions of criminal justice responses to terrorism

There is increasing recognition that women and men can be vulnerable to terrorism in different ways and that criminal justice measures in response to these crimes must be informed by a robust gender sensitive perspective. This is particularly so with the well-documented impacts of the Boko Haram violence on women, girls, men and boys in North-East Nigeria. Women and girls have been affected through particular forms of violence, including mass kidnappings, forced marriages and sexual violence, which have emerged as key tactics of the terrorist group used to seek its ideological goals and sustain its operations.

A 2018 report by the Lake Chad Commission and the African Union Commission 'Regional Strategy for Stabilization, Recovery and Resilience of the Boko-Haram-affected Areas of Lake Chad Basin' gives insight into the various ways in which women have been affected by Boko Haram violence.

The report states that "The Lake Chad crisis has disproportionately affected women and girls. From being at the forefront of the displacement crisis to constituting the majority of victims of sexual exploitation and abuse, to suffering stigmatization from association with different groups, women and girls are faced with different challenges than men and boys."

Paradoxically, women, girls, men and boys have supported Boko Haram's activities in different ways and carried out attacks, sometimes willingly, and other times under coercion. For example, 244 female suicide bombers were involved in the 434 bombing attacks carried out by the group between April 2011 and June 2017. Women are also believed to have also engaged in non-violent operational roles, including as trainers, recruiters and intelligent operatives.

In response to this gendered impact of terrorism, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) country office in Nigeria has developed a Nigeria specific training module on 'Gender Dimensions of Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism' which is to be unveiled later in the year.

In the meantime, UNODC organised a Training of Trainers Workshop on Gender Dimensions of Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism in Abuja, from 18 to 21 March 2019, where 20 officials from Nigeria's criminal justice system and training institutions, security and defence sectors, the bar and civil society have received training,  based on the new training module and been equipped with the skills as trainers as part of efforts to build the capacity of Nigerian justice sector practitioners to understand and respond to the different impact of counter-terrorism laws and practices on women and men, and to ensure respect for women's rights in this context as well as in the context of Nigerian justice sector institutions. They were joined by experts from UNODC, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, UN Women, and the African Union.

The workshop was part of the EU-Nigeria-UNODC-CTED Partnership Project III: Support for Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism and Violent Extremism, generously financed by the European Union.

The Terrorism Prevention Branch (TPB) of UNODC has a specific role to play in international efforts. For over a decade, TPB has been the key United Nations entity providing legal counter-terrorism technical assistance to Member States.  As mandated by the United Nations General Assembly, TPB works to assist Member States, upon request, with the ratification, legislative incorporation and implementation of the universal legal framework against terrorism.

UNODC has developed several tools and issued various publications on counter-terrorism and prevention of violent extremism.