Behind the masks: Masculinities, gender, peace and security in Myanmar

This is the first report in our series on masculinities in Myanmar and aims to analyse conflict, armed actors and peacebuilding efforts from a comprehensive gender analysis perspective, considering the different impacts of conflict on women, men and those with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities (SOGI) in Myanmar.

Myanmar, once mysterious to the world after its decades’ long isolation, is marked by diversity and multiple ethnicities, languages and religions. It has been affected by decades of an authoritarian regime and different interconnected layers of conflict, ranging from national-level ethnic political conflicts and the pro-democracy struggle to broader social-level land conflicts and conflicts at the household level, such as domestic violence. In Myanmar, as in other countries, conflict and violence affect men, women, boys, girls and those with diverse gender identities differently.

There is increasing awareness that gender is important in understanding conflict and accumulating evidence that links inclusion to the sustainability of peace. A growing number of programmes are dedicated to addressing this. However, the ‘other side of gender’, that is, the experiences of men and boys, is less well understood. Expectations of masculinity are an often overlooked (or over-simplified) driver of conflict and peacebuilding, but can also, if sometimes counter-intuitively, lead to increased vulnerability for men and boys, especially related to violence.

This is important because masculinity norms can be mobilised or manipulated into violent action by elites – for instance, by invoking the expectations on men to be protectors of their community from perceived external threats. Conflict analyses and interventions that overlook this gender dimension are incomplete, and they could miss entry points for peace or misunderstand the full impacts of their intervention. Peacebuilding efforts are more likely to be effective if they consider comprehensive analysis of the conflict dynamics which identifies the dual impact of gender norms on conflict and of conflict on social gender norms.

Related publications

This is the first report in our series on masculinities in Myanmar. The second, ‘Pulling the strings‘, looks at the implications of masculinities for gender and social conflict in the country.

The recommendations from both reports are available in our policy brief, ‘Mandating men‘.