Cypriot Women’s Struggles for Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325

Women’s movements and feminist scholarship have long promoted the view that the social phenomena of peace, security and war are gendered. Feminists have challenged the patriarchal, oppressive and sexist militarized cultures that promote and sustain conflict and war (Enloe, 1989, 2000, Tickner, 2001; Cockburn 2004, 2007; Mohanty, et all.1991; Peterson and Runyan 1993; Mojab, 2010; Al-Ali and Pratt, 2009; Hadjipavlou 2006, 2010a, 2000b; Vassiliadou, 2002; etc). There is enough research to document the fact that in contemporary conflicts especially after the end of the cold war, women and children increasingly suffer the greatest harm. Moreover, women have different experiences, needs, and concerns and ideas to put forward to rebuild their societies and promote democracy, gender equality and implementation of human rights.  In 2000 the UNSC, after the pressure exerted by  many women’s organizations, recognized the gendered nature of war and peace processes and formalized it in the unanimous adoption of resolution 1325 on ‘Women, Peace and Security’. In this article I will draw into the analysis the Cypriot experience with specific reference to women’s organization ‘Hands Across the Divide’ (HAD) and the ‘Gender Advisory Team’ (GAT) to make resolution 1325 relevant to the Cyprus peace process. I will give examples of these efforts and discuss concerns in the areas of governance, citizenship and property. I will conclude with challenges and possibilities in promoting a vision for a future Cyprus founded on the principles of social justice, non-violence and gender equality.

“So UNSCR 1325 has its weaknesses, but it was an achievement for all that. After fifty-five years and 4,213 sessions of the Security Council, here at last as a public acknowledgement at the highest possible level of the gender-specific deliberately inflicted torment of women in warfare. Here women’s agency and capability were brought to view, and governments and international bodies authorized to increase support of women’s work for peace. It was a proof that the demands of women’s movements and the thoughts of feminist theorists are capable of influencing global governance.” (Cockburn 2007, p. 152).

I do agree with Cynthia Cockburn’s view as expressed in the quote from her book ‘From Where We Stand’ about the significance of the adoption of resolution 1325 by a predominantly male-dominated body of the international organization. We must also not forget that all five SC permanent members-states, and not only, have the most sophisticated arms producing industries and are out looking for markets!

The Cypriot Experience: Hands Across the Divide (HAD) and the Gender Advisory Team (GAT)

Cyprus has been ethnically divided since 1974 and until 2003 when the first police-check points opened along the Green line (the demarcation line, the Attila line, the Line of Shame, the no-man’s land, the dead zone, the buffer zone, etc. -all these designations are used  according to one’s ideological and historical point of view!). Language use is politicized and ethicized as part of the Cyprus Conflict which is overwhelmingly a male ‘creation’ and a male-defined problem. Communication among people from across the divide was very difficult from 1974 till 2003 though civil society groups have managed to meet and have dialogue and promote inter-ethnic contacts and rapprochement either in the buffer zone or abroad with third party facilitators. I will not dwell on this here. I have written on this elsewhere (Hadjipavlou-Trigeorgis 1987, 1993, 1998, 2004, 2005a, 2005b, 2007a, 2007b, 2010). Suffice to say here that the island of Cyprus is one of the most militarized places in the world; nationalism and patriarchy as well as sexism and racism are on the rise especially in the last few years due to the continuation of the division and the influx of migrants and Turkish settlers in the northern part of the island. Within such an environment there are women’s groups who organize to articulate a different discourse on both the national problem which they consider to dominate all aspects of life on the island and underplay all other social issues be they women’s needs and experiences or minority rights, migration or sex trafficking, reproductive rights, or domestic violence, or gender discrimination at work place and in the home, etc. To this day there has not been any official discussion neither in the parliament (I am referring to the parliament in the Republic of Cyprus but as far as I know in the north too) nor at the executive levels on the implementation of 1325 which Cyprus signed, let alone political party women’s organizations. This tells us a great deal about both the structures and the prevalence of the patriarchal political culture in Cyprus.

The two organizations I will mention below that focus on raising women’s voices and needs on the Cyprus issue are ‘Hands Across the Divide’ (HAD) and the ‘Gender Advisory Team’ (GAT), the latter mainly deals with the implementation and integration of a gender perspective in the ongoing Cyprus ‘peace talk’ and has been using UNSC Resolution 1325 as its main instrument and not only. Before I refer to the establishment and struggles of these two groups I will  talk about  a recent UN Open Day on Resolution 1325 which the UN Secretary General’s Good Offices mission in Cyprus organized in the buffer zone-the Ledra Palace Hotel- in which they invited  Greek and Turkish Cypriot women to reflect on Resolution 1325, discuss its relevance to Cyprus and the obstacles to its implementation but also jointly develop recommendations to the UN representatives in Cyprus and then transmit these ideas to the headquarters in New York and the office of UN Women. I was one of the participants.

Recent UN Good Offices Initiative in Cyprus, 2012

Over the last three years, the UN’s Good Offices mission in Cyprus has been supporting the incorporation of gender concerns in the agenda of the peace negotiations. Towards this end, they have facilitated GAT’s communication with negotiators on the Team’s recommendations on particular aspects of their discussion – namely governance, citizenship, and property (I will refer to these documents below). Two open-day events were held in 2010 and 2012 respectively, marking the anniversaries of UNSCR 1325. GAT has participated in both, joining deliberations over the relevance of the Resolution to Cyprus. During these deliberations, Cypriot women from different NGOs identified the following as obstacles to women’s participation in decision-making and in the formal or informal peace talks :

  • historical reasons including the  legacy of occupation of the island by foreign powers over the centuries including  colonialism, and ethnic nationalism,
  • structural obstacles like entrenched  patriarchy and hierarchic, gendered  institutions such as the family, religion, education and trade unions etc.
  • political obstacles such as the male-centered culture in political parties,  the gendered separation of private and public realms of life, gendered stereotypes and a hegemonic male discourse that leaves no space for women to voice their concerns and needs.
  • psychological factors such as women internalizing their oppression and secondary roles early on in their socialization; fear of success and low self-confidence;  normalization of traditional stereotypical roles.

Differences also emerged as Turkish Cypriot women articulated a host of other grievances which the Greek Cypriot women do not experience being members of the dominant community- and living in the Cyprus Republic- which is internationally recognized and enjoying the EU membership with whatever benefits this entails. These included the following:

“We have more urgent needs such as healing wounds and traumas after so many decades remaining unaddressed. We still live in a divided country where one half is unrecognized and the non-solution creates many difficulties for us (…) In the north we activists still struggle to make known CEDAW-we have no laws that protect women from sex trafficking or domestic violence or exploitation…. The language of many UN documents is not understood by all women, especially rural women…..we need the international community and the EU to help us establish a monitoring body to track down gender discrimination, gender-based violence and exclusion of women…in the South , for you Greek Cypriots, the situation is not as bad at least you have laws that protect women….”(Turkish Cypriot women’s voices, Sept.2012, Nicosia, at the Open Day Event on Resolution 1325)

These differing concerns and priorities need to be taken into account when talking about the implementation of Resolution 1325 in Cyprus. These multiple inequalities and ethnic divisions are closely connected to the patriarchal structures and militarized environment. Both Greek and Turkish Cypriot women, however,  recognized the need for monitoring bodies to be set up and expressed the view that the UN good offices in Cyprus to exert pressure on the negotiators to provide resources for this. All women agreed that the negotiating teams are exclusively male-dominated and the few women who are appointed are always in the background-invisible-in the role of interpreters or note-takers. This needs to change. The participants developed seven key recommendations within the principles of Resolution 1325 addressed chiefly to the UN:

  • Support the development and implementation of a Cyprus-wide campaign on human security that would take into account the gender approach to security and define the concepts of security and safety from a women’s perspective.
  • Support women in decision making processes and support women to influence the political structures in their communities, including advocacy for the promotion of at least 30% quota as a temporary measure
  • Support the training of women in decision-making
  • Support rural women’s access to decision-making
  • Facilitate a ‘women’s discourse conference’ on the Cyprus problem so as to inform and engage women from all communities on the peace process and create a safe space for their full and inclusive participation.
  • Peace making and peace building should not only be about ceasefires but about transforming society from bottom up. Women bring grassroots interests from community and households that should be taken into account in these processes.
  • Gender mainstreaming should be prioritised at all levels of public and private life.

These recommendations highlight the vast gap that there still exist and needs to be addressed regarding the implementation of UNSCR 1325 in Cyprus.

Hands Across the Divide

Hands Across the Divide is a bi-communal women’s non-governmental  organization which first came together in 2001 in a two-day seminar titled “Communication in Divided Societies: What Can Women Do”. The notable feminist and activist Cynthia Cockburn facilitated that workshop. I remember at that time one of the urgent needs of all women participants was “we must campaign for our human right to meet each other and work together, we cannot depend on patriarchy and militarism to give us permission.”  The following year we established ourselves as an organization in a workshop held outside Cyprus, in London, U.K. In 2011, HAD registered as an NGO in the Republic of Cyprus, thus, being the first bi-communal NGO to do so. The underlying shared worldview of HAD is “we all believe in the values of democracy, which for many of us means an open market of ideas and freedom of speech, gender equality, equal access to resources and opportunities and we  aspire to live in a re-united country”.  Moreover,

“We have come together to form a unitary organization, overcoming  as far as possible, differences of ethnic or national identity, and even geographical location…. We know that to cooperate effectively we must take account of the inequalities between us and inevitable differences in the needs we prioritise, deriving from our different past experiences and different realities of nowadays. (

HAD is the first organization which promoted a gender perspective in the discussion of the Cyprus conflict experience which means that men and women experienced the conflict and militarism differently. For this we organized numerous workshops in Pyla village (since we were not allowed to meet in the buffer zone in Nicosia until 2003). In one of such workshops we addressed the question: “Why do I as a woman want a solution to the Cyprus conflict?” Here I give some examples which indicate the multi-layered aspect of the conflict, as well as women’s desires for change:

“A future, that’s what I want.  I want all the things that are suppressed now to be liberated, including gender.  I want to feel free to plan ahead, and move on … I want to live in a house that I know is my own …I want the barbed wire and barrels, and sand bags out of my garden and my town… I want a solution so as to have normalisation of life and be able to dream for my children’s future in safety….I want to walk in the streets and feel safe”… I want to have the right to dream about my island as a whole, not in parts, etc.”.

We are also the only women’s organization to also have studied the then Annan Plan  for a proposed solution (in 2003-4) from a women’s perspective and came up with recommendations about the different issues-security, education, property, the media, governance, the economy etc. which we presented at an international conference held in Nicosia. HAD is a women’s organization by choice. The reason for this choice is that we share a perspective that we find generally lacking in Cyprus: a ‘gender perspective’ that takes account of the realities both of women and men, the masculine and the feminine, and the relations between them. We feel this perspective has something fresh to show us about the conflict, about Cypriot societies today, about the long-drawn-out peace process, and about the Cyprus that might follow from the signing of a negotiated agreement.

According to Cynthia Cockburn (2004) women’s lives characteristically differ from those of men because women typically have different experiences, on many dimensions, from men. This gives women a distinctive understanding of and perspective on the world that we share with men. Lacking full equality and rights as women we have the potential to make us sensitive to the many other injustices, divisions and exclusions experienced by women and some men. We have a reason to be alert to nationalist and racist prejudice and discrimination, and the inequities experienced by poor, marginalized and oppressed peoples. Very few women are recruited to military and paramilitary forces, or bear arms and fight. When they do they are seldom in the senior positions where war policy is made and armies commanded or ceasefires declared or agreements signed. Thus women are in a better position to discard militarist thinking and those solutions that involve the use of force. Because women are not characteristically the fighters, they may be less threatening to ‘the other side’ than men and so in a good position to make moves towards conciliation, reconciliation and inclusion. Women have a particular experience of conflict and post-conflict situations (Cockburn, 2004). For instance, many wars today result in the destruction of everyday life – homes, shops, farms, bombed villages and towns.

The displacement of women and children from their homes becomes a war aim and so does the demoralizing weapon of rape and sexual violence against women and girls. This means women may be well placed to know what real security is, and how to ensure it. And this is why I believe we can utilize UNSCR 1325.   And this can only be done when women sit at the negotiating table and put forward a women’s perspective and a women’s agenda. Women believe that peace making and peace building should not only be about ceasefires or simply signing an agreement but about transforming society from bottom up. Women bring grassroots interests from community and households that should be taken into account in these processes. The voices of women speaking as women are seldom disseminated in public, in the media or at decision-making centers due to patriarchal norms and criteria.  This is surely an omission of democracy highlighting its gendered aspect.

HAD, despite our scant financial resources, has organized over our twelve years’ of existence numerous events and activities. I here mention just a few: We ran conflict resolution workshops to enhance trust, empathy and reconciliation among our members’ differing conflict experiences; we have engaged in advocacy work such as writing  letters to the leaders of the two communities inviting them to take into consideration UNSCR 1325 and to include women in the peace negotiations and the working groups-something that has not been done to this day; we issued numerous statements against militarization and supporting demilitarization of our island and the region; we organized visits to different villages north and south on ‘A Peace Bus’; and we organized peace concerts and continue to cooperate with other bi-communal and women’s organizations in Cyprus and abroad. We also organized public seminars on Resolution 1325 and a workshop with members from the Gender Advisory Team. However, we are still far from making the resolution known both at the decision making levels and the grass roots.

Gender Advisory Team

The Gender Advisory Team which consists of  a small group of women from both sides of the divide, women activists and scholars have been meeting since 2009  and often consulted with UNDP personnel  and the members of the UN Good Offices mission in Cyprus. The office of UNDP in Cyprus had also upon our request invited a gender expert who worked closely with GAT and interviewed close to 160 women –activists, members of NGOs, academics, researchers, parliamentarians gender focal points and others- from both Cypriot communities. Joyce Neu also held meetings with the UN representatives on the island. She concluded among other issues that women in Cyprus are not aware of or know about SC Resolution 1325 and that there is a need for a public information campaign and the resolution needs to be translated into Greek and Turkish. She also noted the male dominated political system and the media as well as the very small presence of women in the legislature (today only 6 women parliamentarians out of 56 members in the GC community and 4 out of 50 in the TC community)-no women mayors in either community and a decline in the number of women in local government was noted). Gender stereotypes and social prejudices still abound in daily life. Politics is still a man’s world!

GAT’s overarching mission is to mainstream gender equality in the peace process, by ensuring women’s active participation in all phases of the process and gender- proofing the content and basis of future peace agreements. The aim of GAT has been to both identify ways in which gender considerations can be integrated into the Cyprus peace process at the macro level. SC Resolution 1325, foresees not only the establishment of gender equality through women’s active participation in all phases of the process, but also that the content and basis of peace agreements should incorporate a gender equality perspective. GAT members worked and re-worked documents on the issues of governance and power sharing, citizenship, property and economics-issues that the negotiators and their teams discuss. GAT has already submitted to the advisors of the two negotiators these key recommendations and principles. I give some examples from these documents. GAT has made public all these documents and with explanatory notes on each in December 6-7, 2012 at an international conference on 1325   we organized  in Nicosia in collaboration with PRIO/Cyprus and was financed by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and UNDP-ACT, Cyprus (the report can be downloaded from www.prio-no/cyprus)

With regard to power sharing the two Cypriot negotiators have been talking about for more than three decades and still no final agreement has been on sight. Needless to repeat that this is an all-male dominated process and in the technical committees negligible is the presence of women. GAT identified the following features as diachronic failures in the development of the peace negotiations:

  • Cypriot women have never sat at the negotiating table and their presence in positions of leadership in all other institutions or committees whose work feeds into the negotiation discussions is very low;
  • The context of the negotiations lacks a gender perspective and thus fails to address gender equality issues. Despite the fact that ‘equality’ (qualified or otherwise) has been the key principle guiding the negotiations, the interpretation of such ‘equality’ has tended to focus exclusively on only one form of difference (ethnic), rather than approaching it in tandem with other kinds of differences (of which gender is a key component);
  • There is very limited action on the part of women’s organisations to address negotiators as decision-makers obligated to ensure gender equality. Inter-communal lobbyists for women’s and gender issues more widely are conspicuous in their absence and communal lobbyists tend to focus their effort on each authority separately;
  • Despite the attention to ‘human rights’ by negotiators, particular sets of human rights, including gender-based rights and social rights associated with them, have diachronically fallen outside the scope of concern.

Having identified these failures, GAT is committed to ensuring gender equality and the respect of women’s human rights in the peace agreement and in post-agreement implementation. In March 2010, GAT submitted to the leaders of both sides, Demetris Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat, a set of recommendations on ensuring that their discussions on ‘governance and power-sharing’ address issues of gender equality.  The following year, in September 2011, GAT submitted further recommendations to Demetris Christofias and Derviş Eroğlu on matters pertaining to ‘citizenship’ and ‘property’. A further set of recommendations, on economic issues, was prepared by GAT in October 2012. GAT’s efforts were acknowledged by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in his report on his mission of good offices in Cyprus on 24 November 2010 (Doc Ref: s/2010/603), where he stated that:

(…) mindful of the important role of women in peace negotiations, as recognized by the Security Council in resolution 1325 (2000), I would encourage the sides to continue their engagement with the Gender Advisory Team, consisting of civil society activists and scholars from across the island, and to seriously consider its gender-focused recommendations on the main areas under discussion in the peace talks. (§43)

GAT’s work has also been acknowledged by the leaders’ advisors –all male- who met the team together and separately several times. During these meetings, they have committed to studying the recommendations and taking up the issues raised. GAT has also met with members of relevant technical committees, who have communicated a willingness to address gender issues in their work in the future.

GAT believes that at this stage of its work, and with a mind to the seemingly difficult task of the negotiators, the issues that it raises stretch beyond the negotiation room and embraces the vast majority of the population in Cyprus. To this end, it seeks to foster alliances with individuals and organizations across the divide to ensure that gender equality is mainstreamed in peace efforts at all levels, both prior to the signing of an agreement, and after it. GAT thus aims at empowering women from different social levels through raising awareness of women’s needs, rights, priorities, and concerns; finding common ground in a women’s agenda for peace and reconciliation; connecting on grassroots level with other women’s organizations, and with a larger community by mobilizing through a ‘peace and gender’ perspective, and collaborating with other organizations locally or internationally on women’s issues.


GAT believes that ‘neutrality or objective terms in official documents’, especially state documents imply a male centred approach and women are deprived of the opportunity to voice their needs, views and perspectives on the content and language used in such documents, be they a peace agreement or a new constitution. To remedy this, UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security (2000) calls upon member-states to include women’s perspectives and contributions to both the peace process and conflict resolution. Within this context, GAT has submitted the following recommendations which are based on key principles of gender equality pertaining to the set-up and organization of government structures in an envisioned federal state.

Non -Discrimination

  • The Constitution of the future United Federal Cyprus must provide equal rights and opportunities for men and women, and must have clear and direct language prohibiting any form of discrimination. Thus, the Constitution in both its preamble and ensuing articles must contain specific text on gender equality and on special temporary measures intended to combat discrimination.
  • The Constitution must prohibit any kind of direct and/or indirect discrimination based on gender, sex, maternity, parental leave, marital status, sexual orientation as well as age, birth and conscience, language, religion, ethnic or social origin, colour, disability, ideology and culture.  The Constitution must ensure the implementation of all provisions contained in the Lisbon Treaty and relevant EU Directives on issues concerning burden of proof in discrimination cases, employment, equal pay, social security, occupational social security and self-employment.

Gender Stereotypes

  • Fundamental rights and freedoms must not be limited for reasons of general morality or public morals. All women, including homemakers, must have health and social security rights and benefits; and women’s bodily, sexual, and reproductive rights must be secured.
  • Wording in the comprehensive settlement must be gender sensitive and must avoid gender stereotyping such as underlining women’s gender roles within the family, motherhood, or in need of paternalistic protection.
  • The Constitution must declare that the state commits itself to ensuring the actual implementation of gender equality in every field, by taking all necessary legal and institutional, temporary and special measures (such as quotas or positive discrimination) to achieve genuine equality.  These measures must not be perceived as discrimination or as measures contravening the equality article.


  • Equal distribution of positions in the cabinet, federal and federated unit/constituent state parliaments and local governments to men and women must be secured through temporary special measures in the constitution and a commitment must be made by the parties to an agreement that such initiatives will be placed on the legislative calendar of a United Federal Cyprus.
  • Gender balance in all public decision-making bodies namely, the Supreme Court, the Public Service Commission and independent offices inter alia must be secured. There must be two seats allocated for women from both communities on the Supreme Court, and half of the commissioners on the Public Service Commission and in independent offices.
  • Political and public institutions must be established to ensure gender-equality and non-discrimination, such as gender equality mechanisms, focal points, a special Ministry or a specific portfolio within a given Ministry, a parliamentary commission, a special desk at the Ombudsperson’s office, and a separate unit within the federal police force. Effective coordination among federal units and between federal and constituent state units must be ensured.

International and Domestic Law

  • All international and regional conventions and treaties[1] pertaining to women’s rights specifically as well as to human rights more broadly, which ensure the protection of women in vulnerable situations, together with all protocols must be ratified and incorporated into the Constitution, thereby serving as a basis for the development of further legislation.
  • Legislation related to social issues must take into account discrepancies that currently exist between the criminal and family codes of each federated unit/constituent state and ensure harmonization in this respect, so that the policies, legislation and practices do not disadvantage people in one community over the other. Specific federal-based legislation must be developed for gender-based violence (including rape within the sphere of the domestic) and abuse, and all gender-related human rights violations must be accorded legal assistance.


  • Women must be granted equal rights with men to acquire, change or retain their citizenship. Neither marriage to an alien nor change of citizenship by the spouse during marriage shall automatically change the citizenship of the wife, render her stateless or force upon her the citizenship of the husband. Women must be granted equal rights with men with respect to the citizenship of their children. Each federated unit/constituent state’s criteria for citizenship must not preclude the citizenship of the other federated unit/constituent state.
  • A federal competency within citizenship, immigration, migration and asylum, laws and mechanisms on trafficking in human beings must be developed according to international best practices and the EU acquis. A federal task force on trafficking must be established, whereby women will be represented on all levels.  Legislation must be enacted that penalizes the trafficker and not the victim. The status of a ‘victim of trafficking’ must not be linked to the willingness of victims to testify against their traffickers.
  • Legislation regarding immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers must also secure the rights of women and children and must be in accordance with the relevant international and regional conventions and treaties.

Furthermore, gender mainstreaming should be prioritised at all levels and mechanisms should be set up to ensure it is actively pursued. Education being an important institution that functioned very divisive in the past should now prepare the new citizen and must include gender awareness, reproductive health issues, and cultural pluralism, including the institutionalization of both Greek and Turkish languages in the educational system, and the purging of discriminatory language and incitement to hatred references.


For the same reasons that ‘power-sharing’ has become a ‘male’ topic, the language of all peace agreement and state documents must seek to overturn assumptions embedded in words about men’s and women’s roles in society. ‘Morality’, ‘honour’, ‘ownership’, ‘protection’, ‘order’, ‘role’, are such words; particular descriptions of parent-hood, home-making, and the public-private distinction are other minefields, which weaken women’s agency. Thus, the wording of the terms of a peace agreement is not merely an issue of semantics but of essence. It must be seen in the wider effort to inaugurate a more just and less prejudiced society where equality is engrained in public perceptions. Key to this is the overturning of historically-engrained perceptions of women as victims, symbols of the nationalist order, and integrally tied to the domestic but not the public realm.

A specific example is the limitation of fundamental rights and freedoms, often limited for reasons of general morality or public morals. Such limitations must be eclipsed. Home-making roles should be recognised irrespective of gender through access to social rights and benefits. Health rights are often impacted by gender inequalities that fail to target women’s health. Such imbalances must be addressed by the welfare systems. Bodily, sexual, and reproductive rights are a specific area of concern in this frame, where research has proven that whatever rights have been accorded to women on these fronts were provided as a corollary to nationalist concerns. Furthermore, coming out of a conflict nationalist culture, it would be essential to avoid feminizing pain and suffering and address psychological trauma and pain as gender issues that have affected both men and women and relevant mechanisms should be set up to address such issues which relate to human rights and must be of concern to state institutions too.

The language of an agreement must, in short, enable a paradigm shift in women’s position within Cypriot society. To bolster this, equal access to justice must be ensured for women across the constituent states. Thus, legislation must scrutinize the discrepancies that exist between the criminal and family codes across constituent states and communities. Women’s rights must be ensured across the whole of Cypriot territory and not be determined by a woman’s location. The most effective way of ensuring this is to address gender-based violence and abuse at the federal level of legislation and to accord legal assistance to all gender-related human rights violations.


The approach to citizenship must leave behind once and for all the treatment of women as the property of men. Such an approach is implied for example in the 1960 Cyprus Constitution’s citizenship rule that ‘the wife belongs to the community of the husband’. Such approaches contravene international conventions and seriously undermine individual rights and women’s rights in particular. A fresh approach to citizenship must recognize the equality of men and women in acquiring, changing, or retaining citizenship. Loss of citizenship through marriage and statelessness, are as intolerable in a democratic polity as is the forcible or automatic change of citizenship. This should hold not only for citizenship, but also for membership of communities or constituent state/federal units, where the criterion of marriage is clearly discriminatory on gender grounds. A separate set of recommendations on citizenship addresses the implications of this in greater depth.

In a more general context, citizenship should be seen not within an exclusionist nationalist frame, but as a vehicle for enhancing pluralism and social justice. This means also addressing the needs of the disadvantaged and the vulnerable beyond the space where citizenship is administered. Migrant women, refugee and asylum-seekers, and victims of trafficking occupy exemplary positions in this space, whose rights should be safeguarded through laws and effective mechanisms and procedures.

Gender Mainstreaming

To effectively achieve all this, the institutional set-up of the state must be gender-mainstreamed. This means treating gender differences as an aspect of all social relations and accounting for gender differentials across all state structures. Specialised structures devoted to implementing and monitoring gender-mainstreaming must also be set-up to ensure that efforts are effective. This includes specialised offices, as well as the integration of gender expertise within existing offices pertaining to equality and social and economic rights. Education must be a particular target of gender-mainstreaming efforts because it is through education that a new citizenship consciousness can be fostered; one that addresses the inequalities created by history and introduces more inclusive mentalities of citizenhood. Health is another area where lack of gender mainstreaming may adversely affect citizen’s lives if it does not recognise the need for specialised knowledge and infrastructure to address women’s health.

Gender-based violence is another issue of priority in gender mainstreaming efforts, where the state should take legal and practical steps to eradicate the problem, which has traditionally been obscured by nationalist rhetoric. The results of this have been the failure for example to address domestic violence as a public issue and the treatment of gender-based violence perpetrated in the course of hostilities according to a patriarchal ‘honour-shame’ model (which prioritised the needs of the nation over the needs of women). To combat domestic violence effectively as a public matter, protection within the federal units / constituent states must be complemented by efficient cooperation across the state structures that span them, including the police and courts. To redress these failures more widely, matters of civil law (which have been often relegated to a status within communal legislation) must be given attention and streamlined across the island, not treated as corollaries to tradition or religious custom. The recognition of civil partnerships falls within this frame. Equality in parental rights is another aspect. Marriage, divorce, and custody, are matters where equality provisions should be propped up with gender-sensitive provisions, arising from the recognition that across the divide, women are often the partners who face harder economic and social problems after the break-up of marriage.

Finally, a gender-sensitive citizenship regime presumes a shift of mental frames across a number of issues and planes of action. It is important to guarantee this holistic approach throughout the negotiation process, and to recognise that from this change of frames also stem other considerations, such as for example property and economics

It is GAT’s vision that the mainstreaming of gender in the peace negotiations, and the implementation of an agreement, as well as in efforts outside the formal frame of negotiations, will contribute to a different understanding of the problems that have mired the island over the decades. These have not only been problems of ethnicized politics and foreign interventions but also of a social and patriarchal order. ‘Cyprus’ from this perspective might slowly begin to look like a different place, a place other than conflict, war and trauma, a place where the future can be imagined productively and built solidly. This is what a feminist (in a non-exclusive sense vis-à-vis men) ‘sharing’ of ‘power’ should be about.

Concluding Thoughts

I believe we have a great deal to learn from the strategy and process used in the preparation of the ground for adopting the UNSC Resolution 1325. Since then UNIFEM has produced a ‘basket of tools’, a glossary of terms and guidance of how to carry the resolution forward and we in Cyprus can utilize such assistance. I propose the establishment of a commission or forum made up of women from all communities of Cyprus who are well aware and have a gender consciousness to intervene both in the official negotiations with concrete suggestions as GAT has done, to demand to sit at the negotiating table providing a women’s input and perspective and to work effectively in the post-conflict period for the practical implementation of gender equality agenda. In this way they can bring to the table and the society at large a civil society gender perspective. This all women’s commission should adopt a feminist theory and have a clear target as well as constantly building coalitions and solidarity not only across ethnic lines, ideologies and class lines and age but also across macro and micro levels. It will then certainly constitute a strong pressure group to transform the patriarchal, militarist and ethicized culture in which gender roles limit what both males and females can do. In effect, these gender roles enslave us in particular spaces and forcing us to be what others want us to be.  In other words, a gender equality perspective will liberate both men and women to create a healthier, more just and democratic society for all. Both HAD and GAT imagine a Cyprus where both men’s and women’s experiences, (without homogenizing the social categories ‘man’ and ‘woman’), talents and rights will be actualized to the benefit of all the polity. This is indeed our challenge as a whole polity in Cyprus.

Maria Hadjipavlou is an associate professor at the Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Cyprus. She teaches Comparative Politics, Gender Studies, Conflict Resolution, International Peace and Security, and the Cyprus Conflict from a multi-disciplinary perspective. As a scholar practitioner she has facilitated and designed numerous conflict resolution workshops among different social groups from the Cypriot communities. She is a founding member and president for ten years of  the non-governmental organization, the  Cyprus Peace Center (1999-2008); a  founding member of the first independent Cypriot Women’s NGO, “Hands Across the Divide” (2001) and its current president.   She is a consultant and member of expert teams at the Council of Europe on issues of inter-cultural dialogue and equality between men and women. She is a gender trainer for UNFPA and trained women in Afghanistan, Tunisia and Bratislava on gender and conflict resolution. She is a trainer for WINPEACE (Women’s Initiatives for Peace, Greece and Turkey) for the students’ educational peace education and conflict resolution workshops. She is a co-founder of the ‘Cyprus Gender Advisory Team’ working on the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325 and has written about it.

[1]These conventions and treaties include (but are not limited to): the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Council of Europe (CoE) Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, theUN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the CoEConventionon Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, the CoE Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the European Convention on Social and Medical Assistance, the European Social Charter, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel and Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the UNESCO Convention on Discrimination in Education. They should also include all the relevant UN documents from the International Women’s Decades, especially the Beijing Plan of Action (1995).


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