Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


14th UN Crime Congress special event on Gender Dimensions of Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism

   8 March 2021

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Thank you for joining us, and thanks to our distinguished panellists for participating in this important discussion on the gender dimensions of counter-terrorism responses, taking place on International Women’s Day.

Terrorism is a blight that affects us all. Acts of terrorism impact and involve women and men, but the circumstances and consequences of their involvement can differ in significant ways.

To achieve sustainable results in preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism, we must understand how women are affected by terrorism, and how we can adapt our responses.

Some women, just like men, become involved with terrorist groups and commit, support, facilitate, and incite acts of terrorism. Some do so voluntarily, while others are coerced. Women also suffer violence, exploitation, and abuse by terrorist groups who target them because of their gender.

Beyond being victims and perpetrators, women also have a role to play in preventing and combating terrorism. Empowering women and supporting their rights and their voices can unleash a powerful force against terrorism and violent extremism.

The importance of accounting for gender dimensions in counter-terrorism has been recognized by the Security Council and the General Assembly, as well as the Secretary General’s Plan of Action for Preventing Violent Extremism.

We must ensure that counter-terrorism action is rooted in a gender-sensitive approach.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime supports Member States in mainstreaming gender perspectives into criminal justice responses to terrorism.

We work with criminal justice institutions to move beyond gender stereotypes about the roles of women in terrorist groups, and we promote policies, laws, and criminal justice procedures that are informed by the particular issues and concerns of women, including gender-sensitive investigation and prosecution approaches.

We also assist Member States in adopting a gender perspective when prosecuting, rehabilitating, and reintegrating those associated with terrorist groups, including returning or relocating foreign terrorist fighters and their families.   

Furthermore, we work towards accountability for sexual and gender-based violence by terrorist groups, including rape, forced marriage and sexual slavery.

Women and girls who suffer these crimes are often stigmatized and rejected by their communities, and so we strive to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable, to move towards healing the damage inflicted.

UNODC has worked closely with the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict to raise awareness on this issue, and I thank the Special Representative for being with us today and for the good work we have done together.

Gender-sensitive approaches cannot succeed if women are not involved in their formulation and implementation. We need more women working in counter-terrorism and criminal justice agencies, and at UNODC we promote women’s leadership and encourage greater participation by female officials in our training activities. 

Our new UNODC Strategy for 2021 to 2025, which aims to sharpen our services and maximize impact, underscores our commitment to mainstreaming gender, and protecting and empowering women.

Since launching our work on gender dimensions of criminal justice responses to terrorism, UNODC has trained over 600 policy makers and criminal justice practitioners in 24 countries, building their knowledge and capacity in this area.

We have focused on the Sahel, Eastern Africa, and Central, South and Southeast Asia, in addition to targeted work in Nigeria, Iraq, and Mozambique.

UNODC’s technical assistance across all regions and countries of focus has been guided by key publications that we have prepared over the last two years.

These include the first-ever UN Handbook on Gender Dimensions of Criminal Justice Response to Terrorism, which is supplemented by a tailored version for Nigeria. We have also produced a joint publication with UN Women and INTERPOL on Women in Law Enforcement in the ASEAN Region.

All of our efforts are informed by the UNODC Strategy for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. 

Throughout our work, UNODC has counted on reliable and committed partners who share our belief in the need to approach counter-terrorism through a gender-sensitive lens.

We have collaborated closely with entities including UN Women, UNOCT, CTED, OHCHR, and a host of regional organizations.

Our Member States remain our partners in implementation, with some serving as passionate advocates on these issues. I thank the representative of Sweden, one of those advocate Member States, for joining us today. 

I am also grateful to the Minister of Justice of Nigeria for sending a powerful message to this event.

Civil society has also been a key companion on this journey. They are ably represented on the panel today by Ms. Susan Aref, a champion of women in criminal justice.

Together, we have all taken important strides in addressing gender dimensions of counterterrorism. But there is more work to be done, in a world rendered more vulnerable to crime and terrorism by the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us continue to listen to the voices of women and empower them as agents for change. 

Thank you.