The academic study of conflict resolution was born as as a critique of mainstream International Relations (IR), which explains why feminist theory and conflict resolution share many things in common. For example, both feminists and conflict resolution scholars challenge traditional power politics grounded in realist or neorealists analyses of conflict. They also share the core belief that war is not inevitable and that human beings have the capacity to resolve conflicts through nonviolent means. In the past two decades, with the expansion of feminist scholarship in IR, feminist interventions in conflict resolution have gained more currency. This essay reviews feminist scholarship in conflict resolution, with particular emphasis on five elements: critiques of the absence and/or marginalization of women in the field and an effort to include women and to make women visible and heard; articulation of a unique feminist standpoint for approaching peacemaking and conflict resolution, which is essentially different to, and qualitatively better than, mainstream (or male-stream) perspectives; feminist theorization of difference in conflict resolution theory and practice (challenges to essentialism, intersections, power and privilege, culture); feminist redefinition of central concepts in the field, especially violence, power, peace, and security; and original feminist research and theorizing, including field research in conflict areas, designed to transform rather than just reform the field. This essay argues that in order to further expand and institutionalize conflict resolution studies, mainstream scholars must be willing to engage seriously the contributions and critiques of feminists.
Maria Martin de Almagro and Philipp Schulz
Transitional justice (TJ) refers to a set of measures and processes that deal with the legacies of human rights abuses and violent pasts, and that seek to aid societies transitioning from violence and conflict toward a more just and peaceful future. Much like the study of armed conflict and peacebuilding more broadly, the study and practice of transitional justice was traditionally silent on gender. Historically, gendered conflict-related experiences and harms have not been adequately addressed by most transitional justice mechanisms, and women in particular have been excluded from the design, conceptualization, and implementation of many TJ processes globally. While political violence perpetrated against men remained at the center of TJ concerns, a whole catalogue of gendered human rights abuses perpetrated primarily against women has largely remained at the peripheries of dominant TJ debates and interventions. Catalyzed by political developments at the United Nations within the realm of the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda and by increasing attention to crimes of sexual violence by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), however, the focus in the 2000s has been radically altered to include the treatment of gender in transitional contexts. As such, considerations around gender and sex have increasingly gained traction in TJ scholarship and praxis, to the extent that different justice instruments now seek to engage with gendered harms in diverse ways. Against this background, to the authors review this growing engagement with gender and transitional justice, offering a broad and holistic overview of legal and political developments, emerging trends, and persistent gaps in incorporating gender into the study and practice of TJ. The authors show how gender has been operationalized in relation to different TJ instruments, but the authors also unearth resounding feminist critiques about the ways in which justice is approached, as well as how gender is often conceptualized in limited and exclusionary terms. To this end, the authors emphasize the need for a more sustained and inclusive engagement with gender in TJ settings, drawing on intersectional, queer, and decolonial perspectives to ultimately address the variety of gendered conflict-related experiences in (post)conflict and transitional settings.
More than twenty years ago, feminist scholars began challenging conventional approaches to the study of war that they accused of being gender blind and excluding women’s involvement and experience of conflict. This feminist critique was articulated by Cynthia Enloe in her question “Where are the women?” in reference to the study of conflicts. Since then, numerous scholars have produced works that not only include women in existing accounts of war but also offer radical alternative approaches to the study of war. This body of feminist scholarship has sought to deconstruct and challenge three foundations of mainstream scholarship on armed conflict: equating gender with women or women’s issues; conflating women and children together as victims of war; and narrowly defining war as a masculine, public activity with a clear time frame. Feminist scholars such as Judith Butler theorized the concepts of gender and sex in order to complicate feminism beyond “women’s studies.” Despite these inroads into the way conflict is conceptualized and researched, mainstream approaches to the study of war in the past decade remain resistant to systematic and comprehensive considerations of gender. Recent scholarship presents a broader picture of women’s relationship to international conflicts. Feminist scholars demonstrate women’s multiple roles within, and impacts on, war; disrupt stereotypes and gendered norms associated with “women’s place” during war; and highlight some of the many different ways that women—as soldiers, rebels, and as perpetrators of violence—perform in, and influence war.
Meredith Loken and Hilary Matfess
Women are active participants in violent non-state actors/organizations (VNSAs). They engage in the front-line environment as armed fighters; participate off the front line as spies, recruiters, medics, and logisticians; and lead military units, hold political positions, and craft policy and outreach efforts. Women participate in VNSAs for a myriad of reasons and through a number of pathways: they join voluntarily as politicized recruits; are recruited through economic resources, potential for adventure, or other practical opportunities; may view VNSAs as a survival choice; or may be forcibly recruited. Women’s participation in VNSAs is significant both for the characteristics of political violence—as women often have unique discursive importance to organizational narratives and representations—and for conflict outcomes. VNSAs’ gender dynamics and the diverse experiences of women participants also shape post-conflict processes and durable peace efforts. The integration (or exclusion) of women from demobilization and reintegration programming, peace negotiations, and former-militant political parties affects the nature of the post-conflict political settlement.