The Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces has just released two volumes on gender and the security sector. The first, entitled The Security Sector and Gender in West Africa, provides complete profiles of the fourteen countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) along two lines of inquiry: do security sector institutions respond to the different security and justice needs of men and women, girls and boys? and what measures have been implemented to foster inclusive, equitable and non-discriminatory institutions in the security sector? The second volume, entitled Gender and Security Sector Reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a needs assessment conducted in cooperation with local government and partner organizations that surveys a variety of initiatives and identifies best practices as well as key areas for improved gender mainstreaming.

The West Africa report finds that  the ECOWAS states are improving the number of women in the ranks of security and justice institutions (women make up 12% of the security sector, on average) and have specialized services for gender-based violence, but that gender policies tend to be piecemeal and the greater challenge is to change conduct and practices. It suggests that gender mainstreaming is more than staff levels and policies; it entails gradual change to institutional culture – from the development of oversight mechanisms to the ways in which police officers interact with citizens. Of all the police and armed forces surveyed, only the Liberian National Police had streamlined gender training into its mandatory curriculum. Broader issues of sexual diversity represent a key area for improvement; homosexuality remains a criminal offense in seven of the countries surveyed, and other maintain ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policies in the army and police.

The report on Bosnia and Herzegovina finds that sexual harassment and gender discrimination are rarely reported within security sector institutions, which still lack internal gender units and equal employment offices. The report also identifies positive and successful initiatives, such as the regional Women Police Officers Network and the inclusion of civil society actors working on gender and security. The two volumes represent valuable collections of experience, different programming designs, best practices, and country-specific challenges for anyone working on the multiple intersections of gender and SSR.