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Women, Gender, and Conflict: Making the Connections


Author(s): Martha Thompson
Source: Development in Practice, Vol. 16, No. 3/4 (Jun., 2006), pp. 342-353
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of Oxfam GB
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Development in Practice, Volume 16, Numbers 3&4, June 2006
Taylor&FrancisGroup
Women, g end er, and conf lict: mak ing
th e connections
Marth a Th ompson
Th is review essay explores th e need to mak e th e roles of women and of men visible in ord er to
und erstand th e d if f erent ways in wh ich th ey are involved in, and af f ected by, armed conf lict; and
also to examine th e ways in wh ich g end er roles, th e relations between women and men, are
ch ang ed d uring and as a result of such conf lict. Th e auth or reviews current literature on th e
political economy of conf lict, and f eminist writing on women in conf lict, noting th at th e
f ormer tend s to be g end er-blind , wh ile th e latter g enerally f ails to tak e into account an und er-
stand ing of th e wid er Realpolitik . Th e auth or f ocuses on f ive recent f eminist work s th at h ave
attempted to d o th is, and h ence contributed to moving th e d ebate f orward .
* Enloe, Cynth ia (2004) Th e Curious Feminist: Search ing f or Women in th e New Ag e of
Empire, Berk eley, CA: University of Calif ornia Press.
* Giles, Wenona and Jennif er Hynd man (ed s.) (2004) Sites of Violence: Gend er and Conf lict
Zones, Berk eley, CA: University of Calif ornia Press.
* Mazurana, Dyan and Kh ristoph er Carlson (2004) From Combat to Community: Women
and Girls in Sierra Leone, Cambrid g e, MA: Women' s Policy Commission, Harvard
University.
* Mazurana, Dyan, Ang ela Raven Roberts, and Jane Parpart (ed s.) (2005) Gend er, Con-
f lict
and Peacek eeping , New York , NY: Rowan & Littlef ield .
* Nord strom, Carolyn (2004) Th e Sh ad ows of War: Violence, Power and International Prof it-
eering in th e Twenty-f irst Century, Berk eley, CA: University of Calif ornia Press.
Lif ting experience up to th e lig h t
Camilo Cienf ueg os, a much -loved h ero of th e Cuban revolution, is pictured on Cuba's blue 20-
peso bank note. Wh en you h old it up to th e lig h t, th e f ace of Celia Sainch ez appears beh ind h im.
Alth oug h sh e is a f amous revolutionary h eroine in h er own rig h t, and wid ely believed to be
Fid el Castro's most trusted ad viser until h er d eath , Celia is invisible until th e lig h t
sh ines
th roug h th e bank note. One way to classif y th e literature on g end er and conf lict is to d ivid e it
into th at wh ich mak es women's and g irls' experience of conf lict visible by h old ing it up
to
th e lig h t; and th at wh ich analyses th e d if f erent g end er roles th at emerg e in conf lict, th e ch ang ing
concepts of masculine and f eminine id entities, and ch ang es in th e power relationsh ips between
men and women.
Both aspects of th e g end ered analysis of conf lict are of f und amental importance.
Practice h as
sh own th at if we d on't und erstand th e specif ic circumstances, experiences, roles, vulnerabilities,
and capacities of men and women in war, we construct h omog eneous strateg ies of response th at
342 ISSN 096] -4524 Print/ISSN 1364-92 13 Online 3-40342-12 ?I 2006 Oxf am GB
DOI: 10.1080/09614520600694976 Routled g e Publish ing
Women, g end er, and conf lict
d o not ad d ress g end er-based d if f erences and g enerally tend to d isad vantag e women. Hold ing
women's experience up to th e lig h t is also crucial: with out d oing th is we cannot set th at experi-
ence in th e context of sh if ting g end er id entities, roles, and power relationsh ips in situations of
conf lict. Th is is true wh eth er you work in h umanitarian relief , reh abilitation, peace-k eeping
ef f orts, h uman rig h ts, d isarmament, d emobilisation, or post-conf lict reconstruction.
Th e literature on g end er and conf lict and on women in conf lict h as g rown stead ily over th e
last 20 years. Th is includ es texts d ealing with th e ways in wh ich war af f ects women and g irls
d if f erently f rom men and boys, th e particular vulnerabilities and capacities th at women d evelop
in conf lict, and th e d if f erent ways in wh ich relief and oth er f orms of assistance and th e cessation
of h ostilities can af f ect men and women. (See, f or example, Ash f ar 2004; Byrne 1995;
Cock burn 2004; El-Bush ra and Piza Lopez 1984; El Bush ra 2004; Enloe 2000; Kampwirth
2002; Korac 2004; Manch and a 2001; Mertus 2000.)
Despite th is, th ere are still several important areas of th e literature on conf lict wh ere th ere is
little or no g end er analysis. As Cynth ia Cock burn says, 'Gend er h as a curious way of being both
simultaneously present and absent in popular perception' (Cock burn 2004: 25). Much of th e
current literature is still mainly about men's involvement in conf lict, wh eth er th ey are creating
it, prof iting f rom it, provok ing it, supplying it, d oing th e f ig h ting , d irecting it, or suf f ering
f rom it. Th is g end er blind ness is perpetuated wh en writers specif ically id entif y men as th e
main or sole actors in armed conf lict, or f ail to question th e assumption th at men's experiences
and perspectives of war are universal.
In th is review of current writing on women, g end er, and conf lict, I f ocus on th e weak ness of
g end er analysis in th e current d ebates on conf lict th eory. Most of th ese d ebates are being con-
d ucted f rom a g end er-blind perspective, and f ar too f ew f eminists and g end er specialists h ave
eng ag ed in th em. Th is article f irst lays out some of th e areas wh ere I f eel th ere is a need to apply
a g end er analysis to new conf lict th eories; th en it id entif ies some of th e writers wh o are trying to
d o th is.
Current d ebates on conf lict th eory
Analysts across th e political spectrum ag ree th at th e cond uct and ch aracteristics of war h ave
ch ang ed since th e end of th e Cold War. Most wars are f oug h t internally; eth nic d ivisions are
prominent; no sid es can any long er d epend on support f rom th e superpowers and must f ind
th eir own f orms of f inancing th e war; civilians are wid ely targ eted ; and national sovereig nty
h as been ch alleng ed by th e g rowing use of armed h umanitarian intervention.
However, much mainstream th ink ing about contemporary armed conf lict is still d ominated by
outd ated and questionable th eories about th e causes and mech anics of war. Th is is partly d ue to
th e d ominant parad ig m in th e North th at countries in th e g lobal South are all at d if f erent stag es of
prog ression toward s states mod elled on th e d emocratic capitalist societies of Europe and North
America. Th e und erlying assumption is th at d emocratic capitalism is th e world 's only viable
political and economic mod el. Auth ors such as Robert Kaplan (1994) and Samuel Hunting ton
(1998) g o much f urth er, popularising th e id eas th at certain countries and cultures are more
inclined to violence, th at 'ancient eth nic h atred s' are th e cause of many wars, th at th e combi-
nation of youth and poverty in many countries in th e South is
combustible,
and th at th e
perpe-
trators of th e new wars employ
an incompreh ensible brutality. Even more liberal auth ors base
th eir analysis of conf lict on a series of 'truth s' th at are
accepted
as self -evid ent. Th ese
includ e th e id ea th at war is larg ely f oug h t by men, acting
in f ormal roles as sold iers; th at it is
d ef ined and contained with in th e f ramework of state and seek s to acquire or retain state
power; th at it is caused by cond itions of
poverty
and f rustration and f ailure of th e state; and
th at wh ile violence ag ainst
civilians is wid espread , it is simply an unf ortunate by-prod uct of war.
Development in Practice, Volume 16, Numbers 3&4, June 2006 343
Marth a Th ompson
Th e work of auth ors lik e Alex De Waal (2001), Mark Duf f ield (1994, 1996, 2001), Ad ele
Harmer (Harmer and Macrae 2004; Harmer and Cotterrell 2005), David Keen (2000), Joanna
Macrae (2002), Nicola Reind orp (see Macrae et al. 2002), and Slim (1998) ch alleng e th ese
assumptions and compel us to question our own way of viewing tod ay's conf licts. Th e d is-
ting uish ing ch aracteristic of new conf lict th eory is th at post-Cold War conf licts cannot be
f ully und erstood in terms of th e break d own of systems - in oth er word s, f ailures of th e
state, eth nic h atred , or resource conf licts - but sh ould be analysed as ind ig enous strateg ies
f or ad apting to g lobalisation. Alth oug h th ey all write f rom th eir own areas of specialisation,
most of th ese auth ors sh are th e f ollowing observations about contemporary conf lict:
* Many internal wars are not simply a f ailure of d evelopment policy: th ey represent new pro-
cesses th at seek to resh ape political and economic power.
* Th e aim of many insurg encies is not to tak e state power, but to create parallel economic and
political sph eres of power th at are link ed into international economic systems.
* Many internal wars are partly or f ully sh aped by reactions to g lobalisation and are link ed into
international economic and political network s.
* Th e resulting 'network wars' h ave d if f erent nod es of inf luence and power, wh ich can sh if t
among countries, ind ivid uals, economic systems, and org anisations.
* Eth nicity and relig ion d o not cause war, but are used by elites as ways to mobilise populations
into war.
* Many insurg ents d epend on terror as a means of controlling territory or populations, rath er
th an relying on soph isticated weaponry and well-trained troops. Th us, violence ag ainst civi-
lians is not an unf ortunate by-prod uct of war but a d eliberate strateg y of control.
* Many g overnments employ militia or irreg ular f orces as a ch eap and easy way to red uce costs
and circumvent international law. Th e number of non-state actors in war is g rowing , as
combat is increasing ly 'privatised '. Th ese may includ e militia, paramilitaries, irreg ular
f orces, security companies, warlord s, and private armies.
* It is essential to und erstand th e political economy of war and th e actors (at d if f ering levels)
f or wh om war is a viable or prof itable concern.
* In th e post-Cold War era, th e principles of impartiality and neutrality h ave become increas-
ing ly blurred , as Western g overnments seek to apply th e policy of 'coh erence', trying to line
up political, economic, d iplomatic, military, and aid actors into th e same overall strateg y.'
* Wars are not caused by wid espread poverty and th e f ailure of d evelopment, but by local and
reg ional power elites wh o seek to maintain network s of patronag e.
Th e auth ors cited above are exceptional analysts of conf lict, and th eir work is essential
read ing f or everyone wh o work s in th e f ield s of d evelopment aid , h umanitarian relief ,
conf lict
resolution, and peace build ing . However, th eir writing rarely mentions women and is larg ely
g end er-blind (Byrne 1995). Th e new th eories of conf lict h ave so f ar f ailed to bring to lig h t
th e d if f erent ways in wh ich such conf lict af f ects th e roles of men and women, or th e relation-
sh ips and power balance between th em.
We th eref ore need a more g end ered und erstand ing of h ow and wh y contemporary
conf licts
are d eveloping , wh at h appens to th e people involved in th em,
wh ere th e d if f erent poles
of
power
lie, and wh o and wh at moves th em. Below, I outline th ree main areas in wh ich a g end ered
analysis is most need ed .
Causes of internal wars, and Western strateg ies
to
sh ape
th eir outcomes
Duf f ield (2001) and Macrae (2002) question th e 'f ailed state' arg ument,
wh ich conveniently
both circumvents th e need f or structural transf ormation or questioning
of th e international
344 Development in Practice, Volume 16, Numbers 3&4, June 2006
Women, g end er, and conf lict
g lobal system and prescribes a better application of th e d emocratic capitalist mod el as th e only
log ical way in wh ich to org anise a nation state. Both analysts analyse h ow insurg encies are
d eveloping strateg ies of economic and political power th at are not centred on th e state.
Wh ile th ere are many g end ered analyses of state build ing (most notably Enloe 2000; Cock burn
and Zark ov 2002; Af sh ar 2004; and Klein 2004), th ere is little g end ered analysis of th e increas-
ing number of conf licts in wh ich th e state is d isinteg rating and new f orms of power are being
f ash ioned (Byrne 1995).
Duf f ield (1996, 2001) and Macrae (2002) also analyse Western g eopolitical strateg ies to
control and contain conf lict in countries in th e South . Th ey d evelop th e id ea of coh erence,
explaining h ow Western d emocracies h ave soug h t to alig n d iplomacy, political aims, economic
policy, military actions, and international aid with security objectives as a way to contain con-
f lict with in th e bord ers of oth er countries. Macrae f ocuses on th e use of th e d octrine of h uman
security with in th e context of 'coh erence'. Feminist analysts h ave beg un to bring a g end ered
analysis to th is d octrine, particularly in th e realm of peace k eeping (see, f or example, Af sh ar
and Ead e 2004; Broad h ead 2002; Hynd man 2001). Most f eminist analysis, h owever, d oes
not ad d ress current conf lict in th e lig h t of th ese new th eories.
Western states are using a rang e of measures, f rom sanctions to h umanitarian intervention, to
alter th e internal g overnance of countries in th e South (Macrae 2002). From th e bombing of
Af g h anistan in 2001 af ter th e attack s on th e USA on 11 September 2001, as th e 'g lobal war
on terror' (GWOT) d evelops, th e policies of Islamic countries in relation to women are increas-
ing ly being used as a justif ication f or intervention. Moh ammed Haneef Atmar (2001) presents
an excellent d issection of Western g overnments' cynical concern f or g end er issues f or reasons
of th eir own political convenience.
Economic systems and conf lict with in th e g lobal f ramework
Keen (2000) examines th e economic eng ines th at d rive and sustain conf lict, arg uing th at th ese
must be examined in ord er to und erstand th e causes. An increasing number of stud ies, such as
th ose by Ph ilippe Le Billon (2000) and Sarah Collinson (2002), consid er th e political economy
of war. Since neith er insurg ents nor g overnments can now d epend on superpower patronag e,
th ey h ave h ad to f ind new ways to f und wars, includ ing trad ing in d rug s and arms, sex traf f ick -
ing , and illicit resource extraction. Th ese and oth er f und ing strateg ies are now embed d ed in
international economic and f inancial systems (Duf f ield 2001; Keen 2000). Wh ile th ere are
g ood stud ies of h ow women d evelop livelih ood strateg ies in situations of conf lict (f or
example, Pain and Lautze 2002; El Bush ra 2004), th ese larg ely country-specif ic stud ies h ave
not been tied into a g end ered analysis of th e g lobal economic systems th at d rive and sustain
conf lict.
New types of insurg encies: th eir objectives and use of violence
Wh ile nation states lik e Af g h anistan, Burund i, th e Democratic Republic of th e Cong o (DRC),
and Somalia appear to be weak or d isinteg rating , new sph eres
of economic and political power
th at d epend on continual instability are being constructed with in th em (Duf f ield 2001). In such
situations, and also in strong er states such as Ug and a
and Colombia, brutality
is
increasing ly
th e
central weapon of war. It is used both by rebel armies wh o use terror in place of manpower and
soph isticated weaponry, and by paramilitaries d eployed by g overnments in ord er to d uck
responsibility f or war crimes and avoid g iving g round s f or h umanitarian intervention. Max
Glaser (2005) h as prod uced
a
g ood up-to-d ate stud y
on Armed Non-State Actors (ANSAs),
with matrices to h elp h umanitarians to f ig ure out h ow to eng ag e with th em. However, since
Development in Practice, Volume 16, Numbers 3&4, June 2006 345
Marth a Th ompson
th is stud y is g end er-blind , it will not h elp h umanitarians to eng ag e with th e g end ered reality of
th ese non-state actors. Rebel g roups such as th e Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra
Leone, th e Lord 's Resistance Army (LRA) in Ug and a, and th e various armed g roups in th e
eastern Cong o h ave k id napped g irls and women f or use in sexual, military, and log istics
roles. Th ey h ave f orced th eir combatants to commit h orrif ic acts of sexual abuse and oth er atro-
cities th at h ave become th eir k ey mech anisms f or population control. Wh ile th ere h as been
some g ood g end ered analysis of th e role of rape and sexual violence in eth nic cleansing and
g enocid e, particularly in th e cases of Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwand a, and now Darf ur (Lorentzen
and Turpin 1998; Tursh an and Twag iramariya 1998; Mertus 2000; Rees 2002), th ere is f ar
less g end ered analysis of h ow th e insurg encies in Ug and a and armed g roups in th e DRC
operate and successf ully alter social relationsh ips th roug h th e wid espread violation of cultural
norms and g end er id entities. Th e increasing role of non-state actors in war is a k ey element in
new th eories about conf lict, but th ere are as yet too f ew g end ered analyses of th ese actors' g oals
and h ow th ey build and wield power.
Literature on g end er and conf lict
You need to cast a wid e net wh en look ing f or literature on g end er and conf lict. Apart f rom
Cynth ia Cock burn, Cynth ia Enloe, Dyan Mazurana, and Sand ra Wh itworth , many f eminists
are eith er writing about conf lict f rom th eir particular areas of expertise, or f ocusing on a specif ic
national or reg ional conf lict rath er th an d oing a g lobal analysis. Auth ors on g end er and conf lict
come f rom f ield s as d iverse as anth ropolog y, h uman rig h ts, g eog raph y, g end er stud ies, law, and
political sciences, and many are actively involved in h ealth , h umanitarian work , conf lict resol-
ution, peace k eeping , and solid arity activism. However, th ey tend not to ad d ress th e wid er
d ynamic of conf lict as g lobal process; instead th ey concentrate th eir attention on th e particulars
of a conf lict in a certain time and place and its ef f ects on women, on men, and on th eir relation-
sh ips. Wh ile such specif ic stud ies are absolutely essential, th is f ocus on th e particular may be
one of th e main reasons wh y particular stud ies of g end er and conf lict are not tied into a more
g lobal analysis.
A pleth ora of g ood solid work on g end er and conf lict beg an to f lourish in th e 1980s. Th e
report of an Oxf am GB work sh op on 'Gend er, Development and Conf lict' was a break th roug h
f rom an aid perspective, d emonstrating h ow conf lict af f ected women d if f erently f rom men (El
Bush ra and Piza-Lopez 1984). From th e Institute of Development Stud ies (IDS) at th e
University of Sussex, Brid g et Byrne (1995) mad e th e critical link f rom Enloe's g end er analysis
of masculinity in war to th eories of conf lict and issues in h umanitarian work , alth oug h h er
analysis d oes not includ e enoug h of th e new th ink ing on contemporary conf lict. Julie Mertus
(2000) provid es a valuable source on th e ef f ects of both war and h umanitarian relief on
women, but rath er th an examining wh y war h as d eveloped in th ese ways, sh e look s at h ow it
is experienced by women. Fiona Fox of CAFOD look ed critically at th e cond itionality implicit
in th e 'new h umanitarianism' (Fox 2001).Th e volume ed ited by Haleh Af sh ar and Deborah
Ead e (2004) is an excellent collection of women's analysis of th e impact of war and peace
k eeping f rom d if f erent parts of th e world , unique in its g eog raph ic
bread th .
Th ere are many examples of excellent place-specif ic work , of wh ich th e f ollowing is only
a
h and f ul. Jud y El Bush ra (2004) of f ers a perceptive account of th e g end ered impact of war on
women in f ive Af rican countries, mak ing women visible in th e political economies of conf lict
in th ose societies. Jud ith Zur (1998), an anth ropolog ist,
h as written an auth oritative portrait
of
th e g end ered use of terror by Guatemalan paramilitaries as a f orm of social control over women,
wh ile Rita Manch and a (2001) illustrates women's experience of conf lict in a spectrum of Asian
conf licts.
346 Development in Practice, Volume 16, Numbers 3&4, June 2006
Women, g end er, and conf lict
Its h ig h quality notwith stand ing , I would arg ue th at th is work need s to be carried f urth er in
two reg ard s. As stated earlier, most of th e literature on g end er and conf lict seems to be written in
parallel with th e new th eories of conf lict, with out eith er of th e d ebates eng ag ing with th e oth er.
Analyses of g end er and conf lict urg ently need to intersect with and eng ag e with new th eories of
conf lict. Th ere is a consid erable volume of g end ered analysis of trad itional conf lict th eory,
includ ing women' s experience in g uerrilla movements in El Salvad or, Sri Lank a, and
Namibia d uring th e Cold War (Kampwirth 2002; Manch and a 2001). However, with th e excep-
tion of auth ors such as Cynth ia Enloe, th ere is very little g end ered analysis of th e reasons wh y
insurg encies are now f ig h ting in d if f erent ways. Second ly, wh ile some place-specif ic stud ies
touch on aspects of political economy, th ere is little literature th at link s th ese with th e larg er
d ebates in ord er to g ive us a compreh ensive g end ered view of th e d ynamics of contemporary
conf lict.
Gend er and conf lict literature and new th eories of conf lict
Alth oug h th ere is a g reat need f or more g end ered analysis of th e new th eories of conf lict, a f ew
writers h ave been d oing seminal work in th at area. With in th e conf ines of th is article, it is only
possible to h ig h lig h t th e book s and articles th at I h ave f ound most h elpf ul in bring ing a g end ered
und erstand ing to th e th ree areas id entif ied in th e introd uctory section.
Causes of internal wars and th e role of th e West
Dyan Mazurana's ch apter, 'Gend er and th e causes and consequences of armed conf lict', in
Mazurana et al. 2005 is th e most compreh ensive g end ered analysis to d ate of th e new th eories
about th e causes of conf lict. Mazurana successf ully weaves a g end er analysis into th e intersec-
tions of g lobalisation and conf lict, incorporating many of th e k ey ch alleng es to mainstream
assumptions about war. Th e streng th of th is ed ited volume is in both bring ing a g end ered analy-
sis to peace k eeping and h uman security and incorporating th e new th eories of conf lict into a
g end ered analysis, particularly in relation to h uman security. Th e introd uction to th is ed ited
volume also provid es a compreh ensive, g end ered analysis of conf lict. Th e ch apter by Ruth
Jacobson provid es two g end ered h istories of th e conf licts in Mozambique and Ang ola, with a
f ocus on h ow th e international community could h ave learned (but d id not) f rom th e g ood
examples of g end er sensitivity at th e end of h ostilities in Mozambique. Wh ile Jacobson d oes
not really relate to th e new th eories of conf lict, th e way in wh ich sh e analyses g end er roles
could easily be applied to th em.
In Sites of Violence: Gend er and Conf lict Zones, Wenona Giles and Jennif er Hynd man, both
in th eir introd uction and in th eir conclud ing ch apter, 'New d irections f or f eminist research and
politics', g ive a g end ered analysis of some aspects of conf lict
th eory, touch ing
on
political
economy and h uman security and g end er. Th e ch apter by Ed ith Klein examines th e intersec-
tions between g lobalisation, political violence, and social transf ormation in th e f ormer
Yug oslavia. Klein d evelops a g end ered f ramework tool f or tracing th e
link ag es among
th e
poli-
tics of g lobalisation, conf lict, and th e increased oppression
of women
(p. 293);
and
provid es
a
g ood g end ered analysis of wh at sh e calls 'coercive constitutionalism' and th e
g eo-politics
of
intervention in th e Balk ans. Alth oug h it resembles th e
explanations g iven by
Macrae and
Duf f ield of wh y Western d emocracies use h umanitarian intervention to
resh ape
th e
land scapes
of conf lict, Klein d oes not d raw on th eir work . If sh e were to tie coercive constitutionalism into
a broad er examination of th e political und erpinning s
of
g lobalisation,
h er
analysis
would be
broug h t into th e wid er d ebates on conf lict
th eory.
Development in Practice, Volume 16, Numbers 3&4, June 2006 347
Marth a Th ompson
Th is ed ited volume is meant to 'analyze th e g end ered , nationalized , racialized and economic
d imensions of violent conf lict and th e ways th ese ph enomena sh ape th e wag ing of contempor-
ary war'. Its primary f ocus is th e impact of war-related violence on women, and many of th e
ch apters are written by women wh o are cond ucting research in conf lict zones. Th e ed itors
also d o an excellent job of pointing to f uture areas f or f eminist research . Ag ain, h owever,
th e book seems to h ave been written in parallel with much of th e new conf lict th eory, since
th e ed itors and contributors never really locate th eir work with in th e f ramework of th e
d ebates sh aping th e analysis of contemporary wars. Th is may explain th e state-centric perspec-
tive ad opted by most of th e contributors. Th e exception is th e outstand ing and provocatively
titled ch apter by Aud rey Mack lin on th e role played by Talisman, a Canad ian oil company,
in th e conf lict in south ern Sud an.
How g lobal economic systems intersect with conf lict
In h er book Th e Sh ad ows of War, Carolyn Nord strom tak es apart th e complex scenario of
people trying to sell tomatoes in a war zone, and th eir link s to th e international economy,
and lays out th e pieces on th e table so th at we can und erstand h ow th e link s work . Sh e d oes
not g ive an explicitly g end ered analysis of th e political economy of war, but provid es all th e
essential elements f or build ing up such an analysis, because sh e bring s to lig h t so many
th ing s th at usually remain h id d en. Sh e brilliantly link s th e experiences of men, women, and
ch ild ren both insid e and outsid e war zones in Ang ola, and d raws th e lines th at connect rural
women surviving war, businesses and people eng ag ed in smug g ling g ood s, and th e international
centres of commerce. Th e ch apter by Mack lin ref erred to earlier is a g ood companion piece to
Nord strom's work : sh e of f ers a more g end ered stud y of th e link ag es between d isplaced women
f rom south ern Sud an wh o were imprisoned in Kh artoum f or brewing beer and th e practices of a
Canad ian oil company operating in th eir place of orig in.
Political economy is crucial to und erstand ing h ow wars are sustained , f rom th e way in wh ich
elites manipulate resources, rig h t d own to th e way in wh ich villag ers ad apt th eir livelih ood
strateg ies in ord er to survive (Le Billon 2000). Women, as th e majority of th ose d isplaced
by war, both with in bord ers and as ref ug ees, are of ten th e h ead of th eir f amilies. Th ey spend
a lot of time 'd iversif ying th eir livelih ood strateg ies'. Women wash d iamond s, smug g le
d rug s, f arm crops f or insurg ents, are used as war slaves in resource extraction, sell f ood to insur-
g ents and g overnment f orces alik e, act as porters f or rebels. In oth er word s, th ey are an integ ral
part of th e political economy of war and th e f inancing of war. We need many more stud ies to
h elp us to und erstand h ow women are af f ected by and af f ect th ese sh ad ow war economies.
Conf lict analysts of ten 'locate' women primarily in roles d ef ined by h umanitarian relief
terms, i.e. ref ug ee or d isplaced . Arturo Escobar (1995) arg ues th at 'th e power of th e d evelop-
ment apparatus to name women in ways th at lead us to tak e f or g ranted certain d escriptions
and
solutions h as to be mad e visible' (p. xx). Would not analysis of women in conf lict situations also
be d if f erent if women were primarily 'located ' as actors in th e political economy of war? We
cannot beg in th at k ind of analysis unless we can mak e women's roles visible. Analysis
th at
maintains women's invisibility contributes to th e concept of 'womenand ch ild ren', th e term
th at Cynth ia Enloe so g raph ically uses to d escribe h ow we lump th ose populations tog eth er
as f aceless victims of war.
New types of insurg ency
Contributors to Giles and Hynd man (2004) provid e h elpf ul g end ered analyses of th e uses and
construction of nationalist and /or
eth nic id entities as a tool f or mobilisation. Th ey are, h owever,
348 Development in Practice, Volume 16, Numbers 3&4, June 2006
Women, g end er, and conf lict
rooted in a state-centred analysis and illustrate th e need f or equally d etailed g end ered analysis
of h ow id entities are constructed in th e new k ind s of insurg ency, new paramilitaries, and par-
allel sph eres of power. Wh en auth ors f ail to look at new und erstand ing s of h ow parallel sph eres
of economic and political power are emerg ing in situations of conf lict, th ey consequently f ail to
ad d ress th e g end er politics th at sh ape and inf orm th em.
Mark Duf f ield (2001) and David Keen (2000) both examine h ow insurg ents wh o are f ig h ting
ag ainst th e state h ave ch ang ed th e ways in wh ich th ey prosecute war since th e end of th e Cold
War, and th ey id entif y f und amental sh if ts in th e insurg ents' relationsh ips with civilians. Insur-
g ents must now support th emselves, and th ey d o so by siph oning of f relief supplies, controlling
resource extraction, link ing up with international mark ets, eng ag ing in illicit trad e, and control-
ling civilians in th eir areas of inf luence. Many such g roups f eel no need to build a political
project with th e civilian population in territory th at th ey occupy. Rath er th an even paying lip
service to it, in places lik e Sierra Leone and Ug and a, part of th e mod us operand i of th e rebel
g roups is to use brutal terror in ord er to exercise control over civilians. Th ese armed non-
state actors d epend on th e wid espread k id napping of civilians f or use as combatants, cook s,
porters, work ers, sexual companions, and spies, f orcing th em to comply by mak ing th em
witness or participate in g ruesome attack s on oth er civilians. As d ocumented extensively by
Human Rig h ts Watch (2002, 2003) and Amnesty International (1999), rebels in Liberia,
Sierra Leone, and Ug and a f ound th at f orcing k id napped civilians to beat oth er people to
d eath or amputate limbs und er th e th reat of torture proved a brutally ef f ective way to control
larg e populations with only a limited supply of weapons.
Neith er Duf f ield nor Keen of f ers a g end er analysis of h ow th ese rebel g roups operate, but
Dyan Mazurana and Kristoph er Carlson d o so in th eir 2004 report From Combat to Community:
Women and Girls in Sierra Leone. Th ey rend er women in th ese rebel and paramilitary g roups
visible in analysing h ow g irls and young women participated in th e war in Sierra Leone and
sh owing h ow g irl sold iers in Sierra Leone f ared in d isarmament, d emobilisation, and reinte-
g ration (DDR) prog rammes sponsored by th e UN and th e World Bank .
Mazurana and Carlson sh ow th at th e rebels need ed captive 'wives' and ch ild ren in ord er to
maintain th eir war systems, and k id napped young women and g irls f or th at reason. Many of
th ese women and g irls also f oug h t, as well as work ing as spies, cook s, h ealth work ers, or
porters. Mazurana and Carlson pay close attention to th e d if f erences among th ese g irls and
women and f ind th at f orcibly abd ucted command ers' wives were k ey to th e entire operation
of th e rebel f orces. Th ese women controlled th e d istribution of loot, supervised operations
wh en th eir captor-h usband s were away, and d ecid ed on f ig h ting strateg ies. As captives th em-
selves, some command ers' wives also tried to use th eir power to protect captive g irls f rom
sexual abuse by oth er male combatants. Much th at is written about abd ucted women and
g irls in f ig h ting f orces simplif ies th e issue into male sold iers and k id napped g irls wh o are sexu-
ally exploited . Mazurana and Carlson provid e insig h ts into h ow rebel lead ers manipulate
and
use g end er in ord er to mak e th eir warf are systems viable, and th e ef f ects on th ose g irls
and
women and th eir communities both d uring th e conf lict and in reconstruction.
Th e stud y is a g ood example of th e k ind of g end ered analysis th at need s to be d one, and it
d emonstrates wh y such analysis is so necessary. Its d etailed research reveals th at th e roles
th at women played in th e rebel g roups went f ar beyond being simple 'sex slaves' or 'camp f ol-
lowers', sh owing rath er th at th ey were essential to th e
f unctioning
of th e war
systems.
Mazurana and Carlson also reveal h ow little th e f emales in th e rebel f orces benef ited f rom
DRR prog rammes, compared with th e males, precisely
because th ere h ad been no
g end ered
analysis of th e f ig h ting
f orces
by
th ose wh o
planned
and
implemented
th e
prog rammes.
One very important way
to mak e women's roles visible as th e nature of conf lict evolves is
to id entif y and unravel th e d if f erent g end er policies
of d if f erent actors in war. Th is means
Development in Practice, Volume 16, Numbers 3&4, June 2006 349
Marth a Th ompson
und erstand ing th e g end er policies d evised by th e controlling g roup to ensure th at women and
men will be more ef f ective in carrying out th eir roles with in th e war system. In th is way, we
can see th at th e RUF in Sierra Leone, a g roup inf amous f or crud e amputations, brutal violence,
wid espread sexual abuse, and k id napping of ch ild ren to serve as th eir sold iers, h ad a very clear
g end er policy. Wh ile it was brutal and subjug ated women, th e RUF certainly h ad a g end ered
analysis of h ow to control civilian populations, as well as a g end er-specif ic policy on th e k id -
napping and use of ch ild ren and women. Two excellent reports by Human Rig h ts Watch (2002,
2003) on Eastern Cong o and Sierra Leone g ive insig h ts into a g end ered analysis of th e d if f erent
roles and power relationsh ips of men and women, civilian and combatant, in th e insurg encies,
includ ing th e cultural norms and g end er roles th at are consistently violated by th e f ig h ters.
Th ese reports provid e an excellent basis f or build ing a more complex g end ered analysis of
non-state actors and th eir meth od s of wag ing war.
Gend ered violence in contemporary warf are
It h as been arg ued th at violence ag ainst civilians is not an avoid able or neg ative consequence of
war, but a d eliberate and necessary strateg y of th e cond uct of contemporary wars (Duf f ield
1994, 2001; Mazurana 2005). Wh ile th ere is an important bod y of work on g end er violence
th at examines rape, sexual abuse, and oth er types of violence ag ainst women in war, much
of it f ocuses on rape as a weapon of eth nic warf are. Important literature on th is came out of
th e collapse of Yug oslavia, and some f ocused on Rwand a and latterly on Darf ur (see, f or
example, Abd ela 2004; Copeland 1998; Tursh an and Twag iramariya 1998; Manch and a
2001; and Ging rich and Leaning 2004). Only a f ew writers such as Mazurana (2005) and
Mack lin (2004) tak e up th e insig h ts of Mark Duf f ield and oth ers, th at th is type of violence is
not simply a by-prod uct of war but is an org anic part of h ow it is wag ed . Nor is rape primarily
a tool of eth nic warf are, alth oug h it seems to be a f airly universal and ef f ective strateg y of mili-
tary, insurg ent, and non-state armed f orces f or th e control of territory and populations. Th is beg s
a g end ered analysis of h ow combatants and th ose running tod ay's wars see sexual violence as
part of th eir strateg y. Cynth ia Enloe h as consistently d riven h ome th e point th at construction of
masculinity matters in militarisation. In h er ch apter, 'All th e men are in militias, all th e women
are victims' (2004), sh e und ertak es a th oroug h analysis of h ow Serbian militias used constructs
of masculinity to mak e a 21-year-old casual work er rape Muslim women as part of h is war
ef f ort. Her work raises questions about h ow war lead ers d ef ine g end er relations and g end er
id entities so th at f ig h ters accept rape as such a universal strateg y, even wh en it violates cultural
norms. To move f rom d enouncing rape as a war crime to f ind ing out wh y g eneralised brutal
sexual violence is such an important weapon in mod ern warf are, we need more stud ies lik e
Enloe's of th e g end er policies of th ose armed f orces th at also eng ag e with th e d iscussion of
new th eories of conf lict, particularly in ch alleng ing th e 'weak states' arg ument.
Parallel sph eres of political and economic interests
Wh at roles d o men and women play
in constructing th e parallel sph eres of political and econ-
omic interest in conf lict zones in th e South ? Wh at are th e impacts of living in th ese parallel
sph eres f or men and women at d if f erent levels of power? Wh at are th e g end ered
id entities
upon wh ich th ese sph eres are built, and h ow d o th e participation of men and th e participation
of women d if f er? Enloe (2004) ad d resses precisely th ese points wh en sh e examines th e role of
militarised masculinity in creating and maintaining one sph ere of parallel power, by tak ing
a caref ul look at th e area controlled by th e f ormer warlord (now statesman), Ismael Kh an,
in Af g h anistan.
Enloe's d escription
of Kh an's sexual politics
and th e role th at militarised
350 Development in Practice, Volume 16, Numbers 3&4, June 2006
Women, g end er, and
conf lict
masculinity plays in th e US military support f or h im und erlines an urg ent need to d evelop a
f eminist analysis of th e warlord ph enomenon. Given th e Bush Ad ministration's incorporation
of g end er oppression into its rationale f or bombing Af g h anistan and f or th e war on Iraq, more
th oroug h analysis of th e role of g end er relations in th e mech anics of h ow warlord s claim and
maintain power is extremely important.
Ch ris Dolan (2002) h as examined th e link s between violent masculinity and weak states in
th e Ug and an conf lict, conclud ing th at weak states d o not allow alternative masculinities to
evolve. Th is is an intrig uing ang le, but it need s to be f ar more d eveloped . For example,
Ug and a is not a weak state in th e sense th at Somalia, th e DRC, and Af g h anistan are.
However, Dolan's examination of th e f rustrations caused by men's expectations and experi-
ences of masculinity in north ern Ug and a, and h ow th ose f rustrations are played out violently
in th e larg er political land scape, is a h elpf ul lens f or g end er and conf lict analysis.
Conclusion
Cynth ia Enloe h as always mad e th e point th at masculinity matters and must be tak en into con-
sid eration wh en d oing a g end ered analysis of conf lict. Such analyses are even more important in
th is New Ag e of Empire (Enloe 2004). Th e auth ors wh om I h ave h ig h lig h ted in th is literature
review are among th ose wh ose work is moving f eminist insig h ts into th e f ield of new th eories of
conf lict. A g end ered analysis must now be broug h t into th e new d ebates on h ow and wh y war is
wag ed tod ay.
Note
1. And rew Natsios, th e Director of USAID, g ave a g ood illustration of coh erence in May 2003, wh en h e
told th e US aid ag encies th at th eir aims in Iraq were part of US g overnment g oals.
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Th e auth or
Marth a Th ompson is a social scientist and community h ealth prof essional with over 25 years' experience
in international d evelopment. As prog ramme manag er f or h uman rig h ts in emerg encies and d isasters at th e
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), a non-sectarian org anisation th at promotes h uman
rig h ts and social justice world wid e, h er recent f ocus h as been on post-tsunami work , particularly in
Aceh and Sri Lank a. Sh e also lectures at Brand eis University and at th e Feinstein International Famine
Center at Tuf ts University. Sh e h as extensive experience of work ing in situations of prolong ed armed con-
f lict, h aving work ed in Central America f or various international and local NGOs f rom 1981 to 1995, af ter
wh ich sh e became Oxf am Canad a's representative f or Cuba and th e Eastern Caribbean, based in Havana.
Contact d etails: Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, 130 Prospect Street, Cambrid g e, MA 02139,
USA. <prog rams@uusc.org > <mth ompso@brand eis.ed u>
Development in Practice, Volume 16, Numbers 3&4, June 2006
353