A person’s gender will often play a significant role in how their lives are affected by terrorism. Women can actively and voluntarily support terrorist groups and be involved in the commission of terrorism-related offences, although they will often serve in different roles than men. At the same time, terrorist groups specifically target women through acts of sexual and gender-based violence – such as rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage – as a means of achieving their aims. Women may also face gender-specific difficulties when attempting to access justice and seeking remedies as victims of terrorism.
Despite the many ways in which women are specifically affected by terrorism, responses to terrorism in many countries are often led by men, who may not be best placed to consider the needs and views of women. Therefore, promoting women’s equality, human rights, and voices are essential elements in long-term efforts to comprehensively address terrorism and violent extremism.
We work with national governments to move beyond gender stereotypes about the roles of women in terrorist groups. We help governments put in place policies, laws, and criminal justice procedures that are informed by the experiences and concerns of women, including gender-sensitive investigation and prosecution approaches.
We also assist Member States on preventing and prosecuting sexual and gender-based violence committed by terrorist groups, including rape, forced marriage and sexual slavery. We do so by raising awareness of sexual and gender-based violence, helping support victims, including addressing the issue of stigmatization, and effectively criminalizing, investigating, and prosecuting these crimes.
Finally, we promote the equality, human rights, and voices of women as essential elements in long-term efforts to prevent terrorism and violent extremism. This includes promoting women’s leadership in both national counter-terrorism and criminal justice agencies and at the community level to empower women as key agents for change. We work in close collaboration with UN Women, the UN Team of Experts on Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict, CTED, OCT, and OHCHR.
In 2019, the United Nations General Assembly reconfirmed UNODC’s mandate “to assist Member States, upon request, in mainstreaming gender perspectives into criminal justice responses to terrorism in order to prevent the recruitment of women and girls as terrorists and to promote the full protection of women and girls from any form of exploitation or violence perpetrated by terrorists, consistent with their obligations under human rights law” (A/RES/74/175).