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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: March 2021

11 - The Privatization of War: A New Challenge for the Women, Peace and Security Agenda


Between 1995 and 2002, the demand for sex services in Bosnia and Herzegovina grew to provide for ‘the influx of peacekeepers and contractors affiliated with the UN Mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina (UNMIBH)’ (Sperling, 2015, p 170). Roughly a quarter of the women and girls working to supply that demand were forcibly brought from outside their local area, and thus trafficked; in 2002 it was believed that over 200 bars and nightclubs in Bosnia were engaged in human trafficking activities (Sperling, 2015, p 170). Contractors from the US company DynCorp Aerospace Technology UK Ltd were accused of frequenting the brothels where women were imprisoned and sexually enslaved (Schulz and Yeung, 2008, p 5). Although a former DynCorp employee acted as a whistleblower and revealed the abuses, the accused contractors enjoyed immunity as they served a UN mission; they were sent back to their countries of origin, where they were not prosecuted (Sperling, 2015, p 171).

The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda does not include any provisions related to the escalating threat that private contractors hired to provide military and security services in conflict settings pose to international peace and security and human rights. The WPS agenda has focused on states, multilateral institutions, women's organizations and national and non-state militaries, but not on private military contractors. In the context of the changing nature of conflict, these private companies have taken on important roles and must be brought into focus within the WPS agenda, and by the WPS community.

Private military and security companies (PMSCs) have rapidly increased in size and rate of deployment since the 1991 Gulf War, notably during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars of 2001 and 2003 respectively. This growth of PMSCs in the last two decades has not been accompanied by an effective legal regulatory framework. The legal regulation of these companies remains insufficient and has been implemented in a slow and fragmented manner. This has made it very challenging to hold private contractors accountable for the gendered human rights violations they might commit, including the use of sex services of trafficked women, rape, the torture of prisoners with a gendered character, or the complicity or involvement in sex trafficking of both adults and children.

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