The Role of Gender in Security Management: Woman and Police

The Role of Gender in Security Management: Woman and Police

By Costa Rican Public Force Commander Erika Madriz, and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Fernando Montoya
August 03, 2016

Introduction Throughout history, women have played a fundamental role as contributors and promotors of state security. Since the colonial period in the Americas, we can see that women have played a vital role in terms of the safety and stability of the home environment. At that time, it was patriarchal — men, as central figures, held positions of authority, control, and assertiveness. The inclusion of gender in the concept of defense of state interests was slow and contentious. Women's contribution to peace and security was predicated on the attainment of equality with men, both domestically and internationally. This article presents a historical summary of the role of women and the inclusion of gender in armed conflicts and state security. Gender is one of the structuring principles of contemporary societies. A case study described by one of the co-authors, Commander Erika Madriz Chinchilla, of the Costa Rican Public Force, offers a normative perspective of women as an essential entity in national defense. Therefore, women have opportunities as citizens to contribute to peace and security. Integrating Gender in Peace and Security Women's role in national security has normally been as a passive, often invisible, actor. Historically, women have played a fundamental but secondary role in Latin American families, particularly in colonial patriarchal families, comprising only a husband, wife, and their children. In the patriarchal family environment, the woman was seen as a source of support who was delegated the responsibility of emotional support and the housekeeping duties. In the patriarchal system inherited from European culture, bourgeois morality and ideological hegemony positioned women as a "sidestepped element," where society and traditions designated tasks and unique expectations according to gender. The sociostructural transformation of women as a fundamental element of state security takes hold during the period of the wars of independence that occurred in Central and South America toward the end of the 19th century. Starting from the premise of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who argued in the 18th century that the human race is divided into two sexes, the societies that take shape as a result of these wars began to develop a political and social ideology that have as their starting point constructed interpretations of the role of men in the public arena, and women in the private, domestic sphere, according to the book, “Terrorizing Women: Femicide in the Americas.” To define the context of the main argument of this article, as a starting point for contemporary conflicts in the 20th century, we will use World War II, in which we observe a gender violence that transformed the role women play in armed conflicts. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights defines human rights as the “rights inherent to all human beings, whatever their nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status,” on their 2016 publication ("Que son los derechos humanos?," 2016). Because of the universality of human rights, which includes women, the terms gender and sex as a social and biological construct are an integral and inalienable part of human rights at the international level. Emphasizing the distinction between gender and sex, this article more clearly explains the difference between the two terms. The origin of the term "gender" dates back to the studies carried out in the 1970s by the psychologist John Money, who spoke of the "role of gender" to refer to modes of behavior, forms of expression, and preferences in conversational topics which characterize male and female identities. Money argued that gender is defined at 18 months after the culmination of biological and social processes. The United Nations (U.N.), through the World Health Organization (WHO), is proposing a new definition which, one way or another, facilitates the operative use of the concept. In the WHO’s 2016 report on gender, the concept of gender makes reference to stereotypes, social roles, status, and acquired positions that every society assigns to males and females. In other words, gender and its functions are social and discursive constructs that are learned from birth in all cultures. Today, the contributions of the female gender are a cornerstone in terms of building national peace and security, but the recognition of this has not occurred in a vacuum. Through its numerous conventions and resolutions, the U.N. has played an instrumental role in the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. According to authors María Concepción Pérez Villalobos and Nuria Romo in their article, “Equality and Gender: Basic Concepts for Application in the Field of Security and Defense,” women were previously seen as passive social actors in armed conflicts, but this has been changing, and, nowadays, we see gender inclusion, in which women contribute their various experiences, competencies, and perspectives, which serve to build peace and guarantee social development. The U.N. Charter was the first international legal instrument that recognized the equal rights of men and women. This charter prohibited discrimination based on a person's sex. According to D. A. Raimondo in his article on “Gender Equality in the Framework of National Security,” guarantees of equality were included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and, since then, equal rights, regardless of gender, have been noted and emphasized throughout legal instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) enumerates the rights and responsibilities of states to guarantee equal treatment based on gender. The rights enshrined in CEDAW are of a social, economic, political, and cultural nature. Specifically, the protected rights are: The right to non-discrimination (Art. 2 and 5)The right to fundamental liberties in accordance with the U.N. Human Rights Charter (Art. 3)The right to physical integrity (Art. 6)The right to freely participate in political life, to vote and be elected; to participate in the creation and execution of public policies; to represent their government at the international level; and to participate in the work of international organizations (Art. 7 and 8)The right to acquire, retain, or change their nationality, regardless of their civil status, and equal rights with respect to their children's nationality (Art. 9)The right to equal opportunity and education (Art. 10)The right to equal pay for equal work, benefits and trainings; the right to health care (Art. 11 and 12)The right to family benefits, to obtain bank loans, and to participate in recreational activities and sports; equal rights for rural women (Art. 13 and 14)The right to equality between women and men before the law (Art. 15) The U.N.’s strategy, as we can see, is to bring the challenges facing women to the international stage, challenges both in seeking equal treatment and raising awareness to consolidate a universal acceptance that sees competencies and contributions, rising above social and structural prejudices that have grown strong over time. With the creation of the CEDAW, the U.N. encapsulated the main fundamental principles of international relations, establishing rights unique to gender and freedoms that must be respected and protected without discrimination of any kind. In its final report, the CEDAW Committee noted that one of the main barriers to gender equality is the obstacles women face when they turn to the justice system because of discrimination and gender stereotypes from judicial authorities, prosecutors, and police officers. The Role of Discourse in Public Security Discourse plays a fundamental role in the construction and reproduction of narratives, ideologies, and the abuses of power that women have been subjected to. By analyzing political and security discourse, we can better understand the processes, structures, and mechanisms through which power and ideas are transmitted. The fundamental goal of a critical analysis of discourse is the study of social and political problems to be able to understand how discourse contributes to the reproduction of narratives, and how these narratives exacerbate insecurity, inequality, social injustice, and violent crime. National security discourse is represented in many spheres in many ways. For example, the security discourse that is reproduced in post-dictatorial and post-conflict regimes such as Chile, Argentina, and Colombia, is very different than the discourse found and reproduced in countries that have not experienced a democratic transition, as in the case of Venezuela, Nicaragua, or Cuba. National security discourse coming from institutions manifests certain reservations when expressing certain realities, whereas media, academic, and citizen discourse does not hold back critical or urgent adjectives or expressions when manifesting an opinion or reproducing public discontent. The political concept of the state constitutes a sovereign organization that is social, political, economic, and cultural. The security challenges that face sovereign Latin American states today are in the social, political, military, and economic spheres. These challenges and the unbalances they foster are caused in part by poverty, corruption, internal armed conflicts, drug trafficking, and transnational organized crime gangs. Failed or critically dysfunctional states offer fertile ground for the creation of these security fluctuations, and they represent a serious weakening of the security system at a national and international level. In the political sciences and international relations, the modern concept of national security has its origin in the Copenhagen School, with its theory of securitization, which is primarily used by its literary and academic proponent, the political scientist Barry Buzan, as stated by B. Frieyo de Lara and M. Robles-Carrillo in their 2012 study on “Integrating a Gender Perspective in the Analysis of Armed Conflicts and Security.” In his securitization thesis, Buzan argues that security is one of the primary functions of the state to ensure and guarantee its existence. For Buzan, security occurs in multiple sectors, including the social, military, political, environmental, and economic spheres, according to Waever O. Buzan and J. De Wilde in their 1998 research study on “Security: A New Framework for Analysis.” In studies on security, it is important to emphasize the role played by the entity guaranteeing security. The threat to that guaranteed security is what is being "securitized." It is also necessary to keep in mind that an analysis of the why as well as the conditions the state establishes to determine the threat are fundamental to the study of the security-threat relationship, and thus, we might suggest that the response to an international threat may be found in the framing of military-political security challenges and what constitutes an existential threat to the state's continuing existence as a political, social, military, and economic unit. During the past 50 years in countries like Guatemala, Peru, El Salvador, Colombia, and Nicaragua, Latin America has witnessed a number of internal threats that have affected the social, political, and cultural landscape. Murders, kidnappings, and extrajudicial arrests and executions are some of the most serious pathological representations of aggression that can be seen in those countries experiencing internal threats. For the people of these countries, interpersonal violence is linked to illegitimate manifestations of authority or command, in which the interpretation and execution of the command and authority are related to the social interaction of what is legitimate and what is illegitimate, as well as the formation of identity implicitly constructed from multiple and fragmented beliefs, fears, anxieties, and intentions, according to L. Tyson in his “Critical Theory: A User-Friendly Guide.” The resulting power of these social constructions generates new forms of interpretation and analysis, which in turn, reproduce and redistribute power among official and non-official actors. Historical Information on the Costa Rican Public Force During the colonial period, the government of Costa Rica made efforts to create an institution of a military nature, but the Costa Rican population lacked socioeconomic and political stability. Using the beginning of the century as our point of departure, three army bodies were formed in 1908: the infantry, the artillery corps, and the cavalry. In 1923, President Julio Acosta eliminated the Ministry of War and replaced it with the Ministry of Public Security, pushing military activities into the background. On November 7, 1949, in accordance with Article 12 of the Carta Magna, the political constitution of Costa Rica, "the Army as a permanent institution is proscribed." It suggests for the vigilance and conservation of public order, "...necessary forces of police." With respect to using armed forces, the text of the constitution argues that "military forces may only be organized by a continental agreement or for the national defense; one and the other will always be subordinate to the civil power... ." Article 12 limits the armed forces in its power to deliberate or make "manifestations or declarations in an individual or collective form." To develop trained national defense personnel, the Costa Rican government created the Air Section in 1958 and six years later, it established a national police school, bearing the name of Francisco J. Orlich National Police School. The institutions responsible for national defense go through a process of maturation and collective development, making way for the establishment of the National Maritime Surveillance Service, with the responsibility of protecting offshore marine resources, search and rescue, drug trafficking, and contraband. The Public Force has also conducted various international missions. The first one was impelled by the Dominican Republic's internal conflict in 1965; 25 Civil Guards were sent as part of the peacekeeping forces of the Organization of American States (OAS). As a result of the earthquake in Managua in 1972, another contingent of Civil Guards was sent to Nicaragua of cooperate on humanitarian projects. Twenty officers were entrusted with a similar mission in January 2010, when they traveled to Haiti to join search and rescue operations for victims of the earthquake there. Women have also made history in the Public Force. They were first recruited in 1978, but in 1979 a female police unit was established. It was then disbanded in 1994, so its members could be relocated and a recruitment process for more professional women could begin. Currently women occupy everything from basic-level positions to regional heads. Another major advance in the history of the Public Force was the creation of the General Police Law in 1994, which allowed for its professionalization and depolitization, creating a police career track that allowed for notable improvements in training and working conditions. Each of the Public Force’s regional offices and university professionals who have completed the obligatory police studies are responsible for this police career track. We must also note that each of these regional offices has legal police consultants who contribute to making sure that the continuing professional development of the police strictly adheres to legality, thereby decreasing police impunity, which contributes to making sure that police reports filed with the judicial authorities are more effective. As stated in the mission statement: "The Public Force, in cooperation with the community, monitors the safety and the exercise of the rights and liberties of all people." Women and the Police in Costa Rica: Erika's Story My name is Erika, and I'm a police officer and a woman. In my experience as a provider of peace and security in Costa Rica, I still have fond memories of the day I told my family that I had decided to join the Costa Rican Public Force. In those days, I was studying criminal investigation and organizational aecurity, and this meant continuing on a different professional police career track than the one I had started at the university. My family did not at all react with disapproval — it was more a mix of surprise, worry, and even incredulity. In some ways, that kind of reaction was expected, and in retrospect, I understand it much better today than at that moment. The career of police officer was in its infancy. There wasn't any clarity and to be honest, the senior positions were considered political posts. In fact, there were even rotations of police officers every four years. The perception of my family was it wasn't really a career path that I had decided on, but almost more of an occasional job. And considering that circumstances were not too favorable for men, it was practically impossible for a woman. Women's role in the police was limited to being cooks, secretaries, assistants, or anything else, which, even if it was honest and essential work, did not involve any decision making or command of a team. Against this backdrop, it was very hard to understand why someone would so firmly decide to pursue a career in policing, particularly without having any political affiliations or intentions thereof. And, deciding to go to the university to achieve something so improbable — it gave my intentions a certain sense of naiveté. All of this also without taking into account the stigma that my decision to join the Costa Rican Public Force would bring, and the inappropriate comments (jokes), like how was a woman going to defend another person, among other discriminatory things. Nevertheless, I had the good fortune of growing up with fighting women, who, despite not having the opportunity to go to school, were determined and persistent to the point of moving our family forward without any help except their own efforts. The respect they had for themselves and others doubtlessly provided me with my example of leadership. And, that was how I started my professional career as a female police officer. In 1993, I started studying criminology at the Colegio Universitario in Cartago, and by 1996, I had the opportunity to join the Costa Rican Public Force, which in those days had fewer than 200 female police officers nationally. As I expected, it was a man's world, and while a great majority of them demonstrated a profound sense of duty and a great respect for the institution, not many were willing to share their work days with a woman, and even less so under the command of a female police officer. These circumstances demanded greater determination on my part, and definitely also a higher education that could prepare me academically, which was very important and allowed me to be on the same level as the men. When I've had the opportunity to be in spaces with men and women that were conducive to sharing, I never stopped pointing out how important academic preparation has been in my life. Now, having an undergraduate degree in criminology, I have had doors opened for me that support my having a professional police career. As a woman, I consider it necessary to look for any possible opportunity in any environment to overcome barriers of inequality and unequal pay. To do that, we have to demonstrate every day that we are at a peak levels academically. During these past 20 years of service in the Public Force, I have worked heart and soul for a more just and peaceful society, contributing my knowledge and providing quality service that can significantly contribute to citizen safety. I have climbed each step of the ladder with humility, respect for others, and a great spirit of overcoming. I have achieved a basic executive police career, and today, with great satisfaction, I can say I belong to the senior command of the Republic of Costa Rica. We women have so much respect and admiration for police institutions in every respect. We may not be in agreement in many situations, and we may find difficulties that we consider unfair, but this has only made us grow and has taught us to speak up. We admire those women who are and have been part of the Costa Rican Public Forces and the Armed Forces even more, and one way or another, we have lived through the same hardships, but all of this has made us more committed to every achievement along the way. In this opportunity in my professional life, I would like to stress my respect and admiration for every female police officer and military member because we have all learned how to struggle independently of the Public Force or the Armed Forces of which we are a part of. The high command is another barrier that we need to break through, since men have kept their authority intact, including what is considered socially permissible. However, women have unfortunately built day-to-day "survival strategies" to maintain authority. We have also found ourselves exposed to various overt forms of violence, to the point where we don't have the ability to socialize with our colleagues without some boss, supervisor, or colleague thinking that he has the right to sexually harass us at the end of the day. With respect to sexual harassment, Costa Rica has Act No. 7476 dated February 3, 1995, called the Legal Reform Against Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and in Education, which prohibits and provides sanctions for sexual harassment as a discriminatory practice based on sex, according to the International Labour Organization in 2016. Another administrative law is the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security's law called "Institutional Gender Equality and Equity Policy" from 2003, which seeks to guarantee protection of women's equality of labor rights. My biggest challenge is being both a mother and a police officer, being a well-rounded woman committed to my profession. I have taken a path filled with challenges, many of which have been overcome with the help of friends and family (I emphasize that my nuclear family, which is matriarchal), and I am proud to be the first female Police Commander in Costa Rica. I don't know a better way to serve my country. Conclusion As has been proposed and demonstrated, the contributions of the female gender are a cornerstone in the construction of national peace and security, but the recognition of this has not occurred in a vacuum. The U.N. has played an instrumental role in all types of discrimination against women. Through various protocols and conventions, the U.N. has tried to guarantee women's inclusion and equality in areas like political participation, voting, and equal pay. The case study highlights and confirms the thesis and arguments postulated which place women in a secondary role with respect to men, but on a path to transformation. As we see in the case of Costa Rica, the case study demonstrates the state's commitment and obligation, through legislative participation, to ensure an equitable environment in which women have the same opportunities as men, thus decreasing the gender gap that has been around traditionally since the wars of independence. *Costa Rican Public Force Commander Erika Madriz is Operational-Rights and Human-Rights Instructor at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). Lt. Col. Fernando Montoya, Ph.D., is director of the Office of Strategic Communication and Commander's Action Group and Defense Strategy for National Security Instructor at WHINSEC.
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