Democratic Security Sector Governance

What does ‘’gender’’ mean?

Gender refers to the social attributes and opportunities associated with being male and female and the relationships between women and men and girls and boys. Being both context and time-specific, these attributes, opportunities, and relationships are socially constructed. Gender determines what is expected, allowed, and valued in a women or a man in a given context. In most societies, there are differences and inequalities between women and men in responsibilities assigned, activities undertaken, access to and control over resources, as well as decision-making opportunities.

Equality between women and men (gender equality): refers to equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys. Equality does not mean that women and men will become the same but that women’s and men’s rights, responsibilities, and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female. Gender equality implies that the interests, needs, and priorities of both women and men are taken into consideration, recognizing the diversity of different groups of women and men. Gender equality is not a women’s issue but should concern and fully engage men as well as women. Equality between women and men is both a human right and a precondition for, and indicator of, sustainable people-centered development.

What is gender equality?

According to UN Women, gender equality means that women and men have equal conditions for realizing their full human rights and for contributing to, and benefiting from, economic, social, cultural, and political development. Gender equality is, therefore, the equal valuing by society of the similarities and the differences of men and women and the roles they play. It is based on women and men being full partners in their home, community and society. Gender equality starts with equal valuing of both girls and boys.

The World Bank defines gender equality in terms of equality under the law, equality of opportunity (which includes equality of rewards for work and equality in access to human capital and other productive resources that enable opportunity), and equality of voice (which is the ability to influence and contribute to the development process). It stops short of defining gender equality as equality of outcomes for two reasons. First, different cultures and societies can follow different paths in their pursuit of gender equality. Second, equality implies that women and men are free to choose different (or similar) roles and outcomes in accordance with their preferences and goals.

A common feature of all contemporary security governance programming is the incorporation of a gender perspective into the policy and practice of security providers, ensuring that both are fundamentally shaped to accommodate the security needs of all citizens.

International and Regional conventions

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) contains several legal obligations related to SSR, including:

  • the adoption of legislative and other measures prohibiting discrimination against women;
  • women’s participation in the formulation of government policy on equal terms with men;
  • the elimination of discrimination against women in employment;
  • measures to ensure the full development and advancement of women for the purpose of guaranteeing them equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) identifies specific actions to be taken by governments, international and national organizations, and other relevant stakeholders to combat gender-based violence and achieve gender equality in all spheres of society, including the security sector.

Regional instruments with provisions protecting gender equality include:

UN Security Council Resolutions (SCRs) 1325.

In the context of UN-mandated SSR processes, the UN Security Council Resolutions (SCRs) on women, peace, and security define minimum standards related to gender equality that are legally binding. UN SCR 1325, adopted in 2000, is the most influential resolution as many member states subsequently adopted national action plans detailing how it should be implemented.

In June 2013, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2106 on preventing sexual violence in conflict (SVC), thereby enhancing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. The Resolution was co-sponsored by all G7 partner countries. It re-affirms that pervasive SVC situations can exacerbate and prolong armed conflict and impede the restoration of international peace and security.

Moreover, during the 7533rd Meeting of the Security Council held in October 2015  Resolution 2242 (2015) was unanimously adopted in order to improve the Implementation of Landmark Text on Women, Peace, Security Agenda. The Council decided to integrate women, peace, and security concerns across all country-specific situations on its agenda.

Mainstreaming gender within the security sector ensures security providers interact inclusively and comprehensively with civilians, guaranteeing the increased effectiveness of service delivery to recipients. Each security provider has specific gender issues to address, sometimes requiring specific training and capacity development activities.


According to the statement pronounced by the Delegation of Ukraine at the 810th OSCE Plenary Meeting Forum for security the “Ukrainian national action plan in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 to promote women’s equal and full participation as active agents in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace building and peacekeeping, as well as to incorporate gender perspective in all areas, is being developed by the Government of Ukraine, in close consultations with the UN agencies and civil society. The Ukrainian national action plan will provide for practical steps aimed at promoting women’s greater participation in military, political, economic and social life.

The Ministry of social policy of Ukraine in accordance with UNSCR 1325 together with other central executive authorities of Ukraine, international and non-governmental organizations are developing the action plan “Women, peace and security” for the period till 2020″. The development of this action plan due to the presence of threats related to the armed conflict in the eastern part of Ukraine underlines the need to consolidate and optimal use of the potential of women in combating violence and establishing peace. More than 1.5 million people moved from the east of Ukraine, most of them – women and children.

Ukraine has a significant representation of women in the Armed Forces, which is 10% of the total number of military personnel. However, in the Ukrainian Armed Forces women are mostly involved in such professions, as medical doctors, financiers and accountants, logisticians, communication officers etc. Recently, given the security situation in Ukraine these statistics are beginning to change.”

Moreover, the National Human Rights Strategy of Ukraine has been approved through the DECREE OF THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE # 501/2015. The strategy aims to:

  • Ensure equal rights for women and men
  • Combat gender-based violence, human trafficking, and slavery
  • Combat domestic violence.


For an overview of all aspects of gender and security governance, as well as introductory training tools, see Megan Bastick & Kristin Valasek (eds.), Gender and Security Sector Reform Toolkit, (DCAF, OSCE/ODIHR, UN-INSTRAW, 2008).

Megan Bastick (ed.), Gender Self-Assessment Guide for the Police, Armed Forces and Justice Sector, (DCAF, 2011)

For key oversight issues see Megan Bastick, Integrating Gender into Internal Police Oversight, (DCAF & OSCE ODIHR 2014).

Gender Equality and Security Sector Reform Backgrounders.

Megan Bastick, Integrating a Gender Perspective into Internal Oversight within Armed Forces, (DCAF & OSCE ODIHR, 2014).

Megan Bastick, Integrating Gender into Oversight of the Security Sector by Ombuds Institutions & National Human Rights Institutions, (DCAF & OSCE ODIHR, 2014),

UN Women: Concepts and Definitions.

Other tools:

Gender in Ukraine:

Conference Proceedings 8: Human Rights and Security Sector Governance

This publication offers the proceedings of Conference 8 on  Human Rights and Security Sector Governance in Ukraine. The 8th conference had a special focus on Gender among other HR-related challenges in Ukraine. It has been noted that further engagement … read more

Key Issues and Policy Recommendations, Conference 8

This publication offers the Key Issues and Policy Recommendations based on the results of the Eighth International Conference “Human Rights and Security Sector Governance: Ukraine’s Reform Challenges”. Since 2014, Ukraine’s security sector has been und … read more

Human Rights and Security Sector Governance: Conference 8

On the occasion of the 8th Conference held in the framework of DCAF’s ongoing cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands’ it has been announced that an additional event will be held in October. The event will serve as a wrap-up … read more

Criminal Justice Practice and Violence Against Women

The Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF) and La Strada-Ukraine (LSU) collaborated to assess the current practices of the Ukrainian criminal justice system in responding to violence against women and domestic violence. The specific purpos … read more

Teaching Gender in the Military: A Handbook

The Handbook was created in response to a call to integrate gender in military education and training articulated in the UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security; the NATO frameworks to implement these resolutions; and national poli … read more

Women in the Ukrainian Security Sector: Legislation and Current Practices

This preliminary study performed by the Institute of Gender Programs and the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies (CACDS), with financial support from DCAF, presents an analysis of the basic legislation regulating military service of wom … read more

Conference 2: The Role of Democratic Institutions & International Best Practices

Following the first conference held in Kyiv on the 21st and 22nd of January 2016, the second multi-stakeholder conference examined current Ukraine’s security sector governance challenges by highlighting the role of democratic institutions and internati … read more

Gender and Complaints Mechanisms: A Handbook for Armed Forces and Ombuds Institutions

This handbook brings together knowledge and experience as regards prevention of misconduct, and handling and monitoring of complaints within armed forces, with particular regard to gender. The Handbook is a resource for armed forces, ministries of defe … read more

Gender Equality and Security Sector Reform: Mainstreaming Gender Equality in Security Provision, Management and Oversight

This SSR Backgrounder addresses why gender equality is essential to security sector reform (SSR). Gender equality stipulates the equal right of women and men to opportunities and resources irrespective of their gender. Good security sector governance ( … read more

Integrating a Gender Perspective into Internal Oversight within Armed Forces

This guidance note is an essential resource for those working at the strategic or management level in the armed forces; gender units, as gender advisers and gender focal points; as equal opportunities officers and others responsible for human resources … read more

Integrating Gender into Oversight of the Security Sector by Ombuds Institutions & National Human Rights Institutions

This guidance note is a practical resource for Ombuds institutions and NHRIs, and those who support them. The publication can help an Ombuds institution or NHRI engage more effectively with police, militaries and other security sector institutions to m … read more

Integrating Gender into Internal Police Oversight

Designed as a complement to the DCAF, OSCE/ODIHR, UN-INSTRAW Gender and Security Sector Reform Toolkit, and DCAF’s Gender Self-Assessment Guide, the guidance notes focus on integrating gender into systems and processes within police services and armed … read more

Gender Self-Assessment Guide for the Police, Armed Forces and Justice Sector

This self-assessment guide is a tool for assessing the gender responsiveness of a security sector institution. A gender-responsive security sector institution is one that both meets the distinct security and justice needs of men, women, boys and girls … read more

Handbook on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Armed Forces Personnel

The Handbook is the product of a research project initiated in January 2005 by DCAF in cooperation with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). Rather than examining the external aspects of the issue, such as the conduct o … read more

Understanding Policing: A Resource for Human Rights Activists

This Resource Book builds on the assumption that an approach by human rights organizations that acknowledges the concerns and realities of the police and understands police language, will be more effective than an approach that sets itself apart and cr … read more

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