In this series we have a chat with activists, advocates and stirrers making a difference for women and girls.
Susan Hutchinson is a tireless women, peace and security activist. She is the architect of the prosecute; don’t perpetrate campaign. We had a chat with Susan to get in an inside look at this campaign and her work.
Susan Hutchinson, architect of the prosecute; don’t perpetrate campaign spent a day at Parliament House making a weeping peacock out of wool and silk fibres to commemorate the anniversary of the Yazidi genocide.
Tell us about prosecute; don’t perpetrate Prosecute; don’t perpetrate is a campaign that has been established to help end impunity for sexual violence in armed conflict. I started it in tribute to a dear friend and colleague who had worked most of her life in the Middle East on human rights and gender issues and when she died, I made the promise that I would integrate her work into my own.
We have this moment in time, at the present where we can end impunity for conflict related sexual violence. Normally these crimes occur outside our jurisdiction, by perpetrators outside our jurisdiction. But right now, in Syria and Iraq, people are coming from countries where legislation DOES criminalise sexual violence as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. We have the legal systems and governance in place to be able to make this happen.
What does an average day look like advancing this agenda? There is no average day.
I have a chronic, disabling illness which severely effects my mobility, communication and general capacity. My body and mind are not capable of a full day of activity, 5 hours is pretty much my absolute maximum level of activity on a good day.I try to spend one day a week on the campaign.
This campaign is something I can largely do from my sofa, which is great. We don’t all need to be energiser bunnies working 9-5 or overtime. I have a lot of restrictions on what and how much I can do, so I’m careful to only do high impact activities.
But when Parliament is sitting, I might spend one day pushing my wheelchair around parliament house to meet as many MPs as I can. If I’m going up there, I try to make the trip worth it by getting around three meetings in. I make an effort to meet with both men and women, from all different political parties.
Sometimes I spend a day writing, I write quite a few targeted briefs and submissions, so I might work on one of those, or I might write an opinion piece for a reputable blog, pitch to a newspaper or even to TV. I think it’s important to get information and stories out there through different avenues to persuade different audiences. We’ve had pieces in The Guardian, Huffington Post, The Conversation and MamaMia. Each has served it’s purpose.
There was that one time I spent a day making a weeping peacock at parliament house to commemorate the Yazidi genocide and make a space to talk about Da’esh’s use of sexual violence in Iraq.
Then some days I spend specifically connecting with feminist, legal and or social justice communities.
What is it that drew you to Women, Peace and Security? I experienced conflict in my family from a very young age. I realised early on there’s more than one side to an argument. But I remember working for social justice from when I was in primary school. At university I began pursuing a career in conflict and development. Conflict is a barrier to development but development is crucial for peace. Eventually I joined the military to learn about the role militaries have in that dynamic. But I realised that gender is such a key issue in peace and security. The military often overlook gender issues and rarely account for women’s perspectives but women’s roles in international and community development is much better addressed. Progressing the Women, Peace and Security agenda ended up a very natural fit for me.
What are the biggest issues in the Women, Peace and & Security space? I think the biggest issues are (in no particular order):
- gender justice and ending impunity.
- funding and resourcing a gendered approach to peace keeping and ensuring women’s participation in leadership and peace processes.
- making sure that we have a gendered approach to countering violent extremism.
How do we make lasting change for gender justice? We need to critically analyse the policies, processes and allocation of funds and resources to make sure that we hold policy makers and organisations accountable for gender justice. We need to make sure they follow through. In the case of prosecute; don’t perpetrate, we know that we have the laws, we know we have a reasonable amount of political will/support, and we know the international community wants this done. In Australian we have the institutions and mechanisms to do the investigations, but so far the resources haven’t been allocated, it hasn’t been a political priority. We need to hold our own institutions to account for this expectation.