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Will Integrating Women into Armed Groups Prevent Rape?

Courtesy of M.7/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 24 January 2017.

In September, US Senator Barbara Boxer introduced legislation calling for the active recruitment of women into global military and police forces because, as she notes, “when women are deployed… there are fewer allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation.” This follows a string of proposals from government officials and international organizations – as well as findings from academics – suggesting that integrating women into armed groups mitigates conflict-related sexual violence. For example, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 explicitly calls for gender mainstreaming in armed institutions as a solution for sexual abuse and violence against women. Some academic research supports this idea, concluding that groups may commit fewer rapes when they have high proportions of female combatants.

This argument’s core logic, however, makes a series of flawed assumptions about gender and sexual violence. First, and perhaps most significantly, it assumes that female combatants are innately less violent than their male counterparts – it suggests women’s passivity should tame otherwise violent groups. Yet women’s wartime brutality is well documented and, in many cases, female combatants also commit rape. Indeed, sexual violence persists in many groups despite female integration: high rates of ‘blue on blue’ assault in the US military and testimony from female rebels in Nepal, Colombia, and other conflicts illustrate that many female-inclusive groups abuse their own cadre in addition to civilians.

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When Peacekeepers Do Damage: Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo

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Courtesy of Matt Rinne/Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This article was originally published by the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) on 4 January 2017.

Deploying more female soldiers in peacekeeping missions will not in itself prevent sexual exploitation and abuse. Strengthening gender training and investigative capacities are small, yet feasible steps forward.


Recommendations

  • The UN and troop-contributing countries (TCCs) should enhance cooperation between the UN conduct and discipline teams and the national investigation teams.
  • The UN and TCCs should strengthen in-mission investigative capacities to ensure the availability of reliable evidence and local witnesses.
  • The UN should put pressure on TCCs to hold their defence leadership accountable for effective command and control enforcement.
  • There should be a focus on continuous gender training in all units, both prior to and during deployment.

According to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (UNSCR 1325), increasing the number of female peacekeepers will reduce sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in peace operations. However, this does not seem to be the case in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where UN peacekeepers from South Africa have been more involved in SEA than peacekeepers from other nations, even though the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has the highest number of female peacekeepers deployed in the DRC. In the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), 243 of the 1351 SANDF troops deployed (18%) are women. However, changing a military culture that tacitly accepts SEA as a part of everyday life in the camps requires more profound measures than simply deploying more women.

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Revisiting Rebellion: Why Women Participate in Armed Conflict

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Courtesy simon/flickr

This piece was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 2 August 2016.

What makes a person choose to support or fight for a non-state armed group (NSAG)? This is a question that social science scholars have been asking for years. Work from political science and international relations has crystallized around two overarching reasons why individuals participate in organized political violence. The first, stemming largely from work by Ted Gurr, deals with grievance. This notion predicts that rebellion is not solely a rational act, but that it also requires feelings of frustration, exclusion, and/or relative deprivation. Scholars building on this idea have usually operationalized this to mean a grievance centered on political, economic, ethnic, and/or religious factors. The second school of thought, based on rational choice and economic models, predicts that individuals will choose to join a rebellion only when there is a perceived personal benefit–like power, money, or loot.

As noted in my recent article in the Journal of Global Security Studies, prior works that look at “greed” and “grievance” as motivating factors have found that both of these explanations are at least partly right. However, these examinations have usually been undertaken with the assumption that the default recruitment pool is made up of men and boys. Recent work has challenged this assumption, showing that women have contributed to the majority of NSAGs active since 1990, that they have contributed to rebellions in about 60 countries, and that women are more likely to be present in groups that use terrorism to further their aims (here, here, and here). Given this new knowledge, previous research using male-focused economic indicators or surveys that over-sample men seems to only tell part of the story.

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Review – Women and Militant Wars: The Politics of Injury

Image: Peter Davis/Flickr

This article was originally published as a book review of Swati Parashar’s Women and Militant Wars: The Politics of Injury by E-International Relations on 14 August 2014.

In her new book, Swati Parashar looks at the subjectivities of militant women in two protracted South Asian conflicts: Kashmir and Sri Lanka. She reveals that women who do not fit the stereotypical bill of wailing victim or mother are silenced by a dominant social discourse, which translates into the absence of women in peace building processes and post-war politics. Parashar draws on her qualitative research, International Relations, feminist literature and a vast number of multidisciplinary sources on gender and war to shed light on the mutual effects of politics and gendered  understandings of female identities and bodies. Her book is divided into several chapters introducing the topic of silencing, gendered nature of wars, issues connected to her fieldwork, her findings from Kashmir and Sri Lanka, and finally the politics of remembering. » More

Perhaps Bowing to Pressure, Rohani Appoints Woman to Iranian Cabinet

Image by Aieman/Wikimedia Commons.

Many women who helped vote Hassan Rohani into office as Iran’s new president did so in the hope that he would push for equality. Yet, when Rohani released his proposed new cabinet on inauguration day on August 4, his list had the makings of an all-male club.

In an apparent response to the criticism that followed from female voters and rights watchers, the cabinet now has its first woman. Elham Aminzadeh, a former conservative lawmaker who reportedly teaches at several universities, has been named vice president for legal affairs.

Rohani said in an August 11 decree that Aminzadeh was given the job because of her “scientific competence” and “legal qualifications” and also for her “moral virtues,” Fars reported. » More

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