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Why You Can’t Truly Understand ‘Conflict’ And ‘Peace’ Without A Gendered Lens

Gendered dimensions of war and peace are important because even though it is quite possible to make formal peace without including women and looking at gender relations, the transformation of violent conflict is impossible without using a gendered lens.

We already know that various forms of violence are portrayed in a gendered way. For example, the world’s armed forces are still a male domain even though women are entering the military to a certain degree. Heads of states diplomats, foreign defence ministers are predominantly men.

Women enter this picture mostly as exceptions to the rule or as victims of violence. Here in this context, an important fact is highlighted in the work of Janie Leathermen who states that institutions that reproduce militarism and violence are themselves gendered where a long term radical transformation is needed for conflict resolution (Miall, Ramsbotham and wood house 1999,61).

Representational image. Photo by Arun Sharma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

It also stated that exclusion of women from peace agreements and their implementations results in the conflict in the first place.

The dynamics of war and peace are very much linked to each other and two factors are to be analysed here. The first is conflict management which deals or focuses on the state and formal actors using formal instruments like early warning, preventive diplomacy, sanctions, coercive action etc and the second factor focuses on conflict transformation which aims to address the social root causes of collective violence by creating human security, catering to basic human needs and supporting justice and reconciliation.

Even feminists perspectives link the fact of the domestic and international realm and address unjust gender relations as a root cause of violence.

Here, Tickner 1992 has stated that “the achievement of peace, economic, justice and ecological sustainability is inseparable from overcoming social relations of domination and subordination, genuine security requires not only the absence of war but also the elimination of unjust social relations including unequal gender relations.”

The concept of peace is important to get a view on the structure of Post-conflict where the motive of our study is the gendered impact of peace. Two facts need to be analysed here: negative peace that includes an absence of physical violence or threat, and the second one is positive peace where John Galtung states structural violence, the unavailability of power and resources the indirect, non-physical type of violence as positive peace.

When we co-relate the public and private sphere, often we conceptualize the roles of women and men in their respective roles.

For a broader understanding, the definition of peace, as discussed by V. Spike Peterson and Annie Sisson Runyan, lies not in discussing the rise of peace studies; surely (peace) must be more than simply the time between wars.

Representational image. Photo: ResoluteSupportMedia

Peace And Its Gendered Impact On Women

Here the motive is to relate the concept of ‘peace’ with gendered impacts on women.

Many feminists argue that the peace that occurs after the conflict ends is gendered peace. As Donna Pankhurst asserts, “a gendered peace is one in which women suffer a backlash against any newfound freedoms, and they are ‘back’ into kitchens and fields.”

The evidence of post-conflict periods repeatedly demonstrates that the whole peace process and newly created institutional laws are not beneficial and do not consider women’s needs. What happens instead is they are restricted to their subordinate roles. Even where Truth Commissions or other kinds of justice-seeking institutions were established after a conflict, it appeared that women still don’t report instances of rape anywhere near the numbers which actually take place.

This was evident from the wars in Yugoslavia and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Even then we can say that the state itself idealises the concept of ‘manliness’ and women are sent back to their subordinate roles.

Another fact is highlighted through UN Resolution 1325. When it was passed, it called for an increase in the participation of women at decision-making levels in conflict resolution and peace processes. Though it called for an equal number of men and women, the practice and documents have noted that the number of women is lesser than the men in these peace operations.

Hence, in a practical way, women still are found in lower positions. Another example states that all the dilemmas faced by women during conflict are experienced in a more difficult form in post-conflict. Even when the wars are ended up, women continue to be raped by soldiers, policemen, former Combatants and even peacekeepers. When we talk of gendered impact on peace, we can’t ignore the fact which stated the gendered analysis of post-war situations in Yugoslavia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia.

It shows that women face not just a continuation of some of the aggression they endured during the war but also the new forms of violence. Even with the policies for post-war reconciliation, women’s needs are often ignored. For example, Balkan women’s right to abortion was reduced as compared to pre-conflict situations. In all the states of economic level to the political level, the reconstruction of policies and new laws were idealized in a certain way but here women were still in lower positions.

The process of the peacebuilding approaches can be stated in the female combatants who came in the post-conflict arena.

Another example pointed in post-conflict is the soldiers ill-treating their wives to state manliness or depicting their anger on them. It also diminished certain roles of males and females when they countered changes in specific roles in post-conflict situations.

Another fact stated that in Nepal female combatants while returning to their native homes were forced to practice their traditional rituals and beliefs which certainly went on to point on the fact certain things don’t change. But when we analyse some case studies of Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, some factors have enriched the lives of women economically and socially.

But the complex gendered dynamics stay.

In conclusion, the facts state that violence continues binding all the gender aspects. Whether peace or war, there lies a spectrum that comes up with a specific ideology. As rightly said by Thom workman, “gendering of experiences during the war along with restoration of traditionally gendered constructs of war practice and encouraging a gendered construction contributes to patriarchy reproduction.”

Featured image credits: UN Women/Ryan Brown/Flickr
Featured image is for representational purposes only.
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