Remarks at the Launch of the Bureau of Narcotics and International Law Enforcement (INL) Guide to Gender in the Criminal Justice System

Catherine M. Russell
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues 
United States Institute of Peace
Washington, DC
February 20, 2014

Good afternoon everyone, and thank you so much for the opportunity to be here. This is an important gathering of advocates and practitioners focused on the critical importance of women and the criminal justice system and how to implement real changes in our programming across the globe.

Before I begin, I’d like to thank USIP for hosting this meeting, and especially Kathleen Kuehnast, Director of USIP's Gender and Peace building Center and Collete Rausch, the Director of USIP’s Rule of Law Center of Innovation.

We wouldn’t be here without the work and commitment of INL. I would like to thank INL for its leadership on this topic both inside and outside the State Department, especially INL’s Assistant Secretary, Ambassador Brownfield. Gender equality has become integrated into so much of INL’s critical work, and your vision and leadership have made that possible.

I’d also like to recognize the experts in INL who contributed to this valuable report. To everyone who worked on this guide - congratulations on a tremendous effort. My team looks forward to continuing our close collaboration with you in the months and years ahead.

Finally, I would like to recognize Major Suzanne Hajj from Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces, whose efforts are highlighted in the guide.

Her story shows how one committed person can really make a difference. I met with Major Hajj yesterday, and was so deeply impressed with her commitment and leadership in enhancing the representation of women in the Lebanese Internal Security Forces.

As part of the United States Government’s commitment to this end, INL has consulted with experts across government, including my Office of Global Women’s Issues, to create the INL Guide to Gender in the Criminal Justice System. I’m proud that we have been able to work together on the guide and on disseminating it to practitioners and policy makers. This guide is also part of the work the Department of State is undertaking to integrate gender into our broader foreign policy objectives to advance the status of women and girls worldwide.

Under the frameworks of the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally and the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, INL is supporting innovative policies and programs to protect women, increase access to justice, and promote their participation in law enforcement and judicial sectors. Importantly, this guide provides concrete examples of exactly how to mainstream gender into existing programs and stand-alone interventions in the criminal justice system, a system that can be difficult to navigate for women across the globe.

As we’ve seen, integrating gender and enhancing women’s participation has made a difference. Major Hajj’s story highlights how having an effective champion for women’s inclusion matters. Because of her dogged efforts – working within the system and making the case for more women in the Internal Security Forces - the number of women in the ISF rose from 2 to over 1,000.

Twenty three are now officers. These women demonstrate every day that women are able to protect the public and do their job well.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, INL support has been critical to the establishment of mobile courts. Mobile courts in North Kivu provide legal and psychological counseling to women who have survived gender-based violence, and are an example of an intervention that provide both justice and dignity to survivors of violence or rape.

The courts make it easier for survivors to report crimes, ensuring that justice is more accessible and real. Legal aid clinics also provide counseling and medical assistance so that survivors can address emotional and physical injuries. They are able to obtain the necessary documentation that serves as evidence of rape under Congolese law.

These examples from Lebanon and DRC are just two interventions that illustrate the difference that this work can make.

After taking stock of the political, cultural, and legal considerations in a given country, the guide encourages INL officers to rethink long-established practices and requires them to evaluate the positive and negative consequences a proposed intervention will have on women and men.

It is initiatives such as this guide that exemplify the Department’s work on reducing gender disparities and promoting gender equality to foster stability, peace, and security.

As recognized by President Obama and Secretary Kerry, all societies benefit when women and girls are healthy, safe, and can live up to their full potential.

The good news is that we are making real progress. And, thanks to the hard work of the experts who compiled this guide, we’ll be able to make even greater progress in the journey ahead.

Thank you again for the opportunity to be here.