Lack of Women in Military and Police Not Just a Problem in Afghanistan

Major-General Kristen Lund became the first female force commander of a UN peacekeeping mission last month.

Major-General Kristen Lund became the first female force commander of a UN peacekeeping mission last month.

June 24, 2014 – Less than one percent of Afghanistan’s 335,000 army, police and prison personnel are women, according to Ban Ki-moon’s latest quarterly report on UNAMA to the Security Council.

Of 185,131 members of the Afghan army, including air force, 1,138, are female and of the 145,939 police personnel and 5,600 prison guards, women accounted for 1,741 police officers and 273 guards.

While these low figures reflect the difficulty in recruiting female security personnel in a country where women’s rights are challenged and denied, Afghanistan is not alone in having poor female participation in military and police.

Less than four percent of the the UN’s almost 100,000 uniformed peacekeepers are female, according to the latest figures from the Dept. of Peacekeeping Operations.

But the UN is hardly to blame for these numbers as it relies on member states to contribute troops for its peacekeeping missions and, globally, women are under-represented in police and army forces.

Just 7 percent
 of Delhi’s police force are women and 16 percent of the NYPD’s most recent graduating class were women.

On the military side, women make up about 15 percent of active US army service members, while in Norway, which tops many gender equality indexes, only about 10 percent of the country’s military is female.

In 2009, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a campaign to increase the number of women peacekeepers to 20 percent in police units by 2014, and to 10 percent in military contingents. Those targets were not even close to being met.

The UN did appoint its first-ever female force commander last month when Major-General Kristen Lund, a Norwegian, was appointed head of the UN peacekeeping operation in Cyprus.

Ban’s report on Afghanistan notes that the Ministry of Defence is making efforts to recruit women, including through television advertisements but “the challenges encountered included a lack of female recruiters and facilities for women, a risk of abuse and cultural or family prohibitions.”

The Security Council will discuss Ban’s report on Wednesday.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Photo: UN Photo/Mark Garten