A new study reviews the state of research on gender and conflict and calls for increased emphasis on projects that include men and boys, sexual violence in conflict zones, and the relationship between gender identities and violence.

Summary

  • The field of gender, conflict, and peacebuilding has emerged over recent decades; become institutionalized through policymaking, legal practice, and the development of practitioner models; and been enhanced through academic research.
  • Significant gaps remain in the understanding and awareness of the gendered dimensions of conflict and its legacies.
  • The field must overcome a tendency to reduce gender sensitivity to a focus on women. 
  • Gender identities and norms—as well as the systems, institutions, traditions of practice, and patterns of attitudes that support them—are crucial to conflict dynamics and responses. Both men and women are involved in inflicting violence and are its victims, defying a simplistic classification of roles.
  • Sexual violence is a widespread though not universal phenomenon during conflict. It is employed selectively, for strategic reasons, and targets men as well as women. 
  • During transitions from conflict, gender concerns are rarely taken into account adequately. Gender-based violence, especially against women, often persists. Also, most transitional justice processes have failed to afford a safe space for victims to talk about the violence they experienced and to redress the harms they have suffered. 
  • USIP grantmaking has supported notable work on gender identities, sexual violence, and women’s rights and empowerment, as well as organizations that focus on women’s issues. Relatively few of the funded projects, however, have focused primarily on gender. 
  • The field must embrace a broader concept of gender, examine in-depth the gendered aspects of security and peacebuilding, more fully appreciate the nature of conflict through a gender lens, and develop better ways to undertake gender-sensitive postconflict measures. 

About the Report

This report is a result of an initiative to reflect on developments, contributions, and prospects in specific areas where USIP grantmaking has been concentrated. The Praxis Institute for Social Justice was commissioned to review the state of the field, identify lessons learned, and contemplate future directions of work in the area of gender, conflict, and peacebuilding. A review of relevant USIP grantmaking—spanning more than 100 projects with gender dimensions—was compiled to complement the report. 

About the Authors

Kimberly Theidon is executive director of the Praxis Institute for Social Justice and an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University. Her forthcoming book, Intimate Enemies: Violence and Reconciliation in Peru (University of Pennsylvania Press) was produced from a USIP grant-funded project. Kelly Phenicie is a research associate with the Praxis Institute. Her most recent article, co-authored with Lisa Laplante, was published in the International Journal of Transitional Justice. Elizabeth Murray is a consultant to the United States Institute of Peace. The body of this report was researched and written by Kimberly Theidon and Kelly Phenicie, and the appendix by Elizabeth Murray. The authors thank USIP for the opportunity to participate in this initiative and are grateful to Steven Heydemann and David Backer for their helpful input on earlier drafts.

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