Gendered insecurities

On 3-4 October International Alert co-hosted a workshop on ‘Gendered insecurities: Identity, sexuality and global responses to violence and conflict’ in Bristol, UK.

The event, which was held in partnership with the universities of Bristol and Lausanne and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), brought together around two dozen scholars and practitioners to discuss the boundaries of gender and security as a field of study and intervention.

Drawing on past and existing collaboration between an international group of researchers based at Alert and the universities of Bristol, Lausanne and Vienna, the workshop focused on the creative integration of knowledge about gender, identity and sexuality in the fields of security sector reform, private security, peacebuilding, post-conflict statebuilding and other responses to global insecurities.

We presented two papers at the event. The first was a draft synthesis report of a three-year research project funded by the UK Department for International Development on approaches to gender in peacebuilding, which will be published in early 2014. The report is based on the findings of forthcoming country case studies on Burundi, Uganda, Colombia and Nepal, and calls for a re-thinking of gender in peacebuilding by expanding and deepening our understanding of gender. This means focusing on participation of women, which has tended to be sidelined by the growing policy attention on sexual violence in recent years. It also means looking at the complexities of gender, which includes men and women and gender minorities, and the way that gendered experiences are shaped by other factors, such as age, ethnic/caste identity, location (urban/rural) or sexual orientation. It requires engaging with the fact that some women actively participate in violence and with the vulnerability of men and boys to sexual violence.

The second paper focused on approaches to peacebuilding that consider sexual and gender minorities, who are often particularly vulnerable to abuse in conflict and post-conflict settings. The draft paper laid out a conceptual framework for addressing the needs of sexual and gender minorities in peacebuilding.

The other papers presented at the workshop laid out the challenges of mainstreaming gender in military institutions such as NATO, the preconceptions and prescriptions of sexual violence as a weapon of war, the challenges of researching security and gender issues in insecure contexts and the subjectivities influencing the research process.

Further topics under discussion were: gendered and racialised patterns of global security migration related to private security and military companies; the construction of militarised masculinities within these companies; masculinised metaphors of post-conflict interventions, such as state-building and state-penetration; and the role that gender and masculinity play in the ‘military peace movement’ in the US.

The workshop also included a public keynote lecture by Prof. Maria Stern of the University of Gothenburg on sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Find out more about our work on gender and peacebuilding here.