A Gendered Perspective towards Security and Violence

Gender matters in terms of security whether you are talking about military operations or policing, grafting a strategy to confront security challenges or resolving a conflict. The history of security studies is filled with cases of violence where the individuals were deprived of their basic fundamental rights of security to life and freedom from torture and violence. The concept of security has evolved today and now security is not just related to the traditional concept of State security but human security with more attention towards gender. Whenever, a conflict erupts at local, state or regional level, the ultimate victims of any conflict are individuals and, both men and women experience violence at various level. Security in policy terms according to Hans Van Ginkel and Edward New man is an integrated, sustainable comprehensive security from fear conflict ignorance, poverty, social and cultural deprivation, and hunger resting upon positive and negative freedoms (Hans Van Ginkel, 2000). In every conflict, violence or war, the gender has suffered differently because men fight directly in  conflict but at the end women are sexually exploited and raped by conflicting parties so when security and violence are analyzed together , it becomes evident that there are different losses experienced by men and women differently.

According to feminist, the women are more insecure when it comes to security as compared to men and state policies show this discrimination and exploitation of women at various levels. There have been many instances of gender violence at the hands of state and feminist have questioned the status of state as being the guaranteer of security, because now in many of wars and conflicts, state holds the responsibility to threaten its own population through various direct or indirect means.  For instance, in late 1980s over 1000 cases of alleged rape by Indian police came to spotlight (E., 1991) , the conflicts in Rwanda and Bosnia in 1990s used mass rape of women as a tactic of war where 250,000 women were raped in Rwanda conflict only (Runyan, 1999). Hence, the violence was more gendered and committed mostly by those who are part of state institutions. The shift of critical studies from traditional war and inter-state conflict helps to focus on other issues that make individuals particularly women vulnerable as indicated by WHO that deaths caused by war were only 0.4% in 2001 and by disease 91% (WHO, 2002)

When viewed from gender perspective, It can be said that both women and men feel different insecurities in terms of job, education and overall freedom at domestic level.

For example: In the patriarchal system of Pakistan, there are still many villages where women are not allowed to go out of their homes for education, they are not allowed to be independent and hence their insecurity is very different from traditional concept of state security.

The women in Afghanistan in first reign of Taliban have suffered a lot of violence and oppression because Taliban made very strict policies towards women when they were not allowed to get education which is the basic right of every human , they were forced to wear a particular dress and those who violated were severely punished. There are many instances when women are not considered human because they have not been treated equally as men and criteria of humanity demands and equal treatment towards all genders where every individual should be free to live life according to his will.

Hence, the gender perspective is very essential when it comes to a comprehensive understanding of security and violence going beyond state and considering how insecure one gender is despite many human rights resolutions. Along with that, still in 21st century there are many women who face domestic violence, many women who are not allowed to get education, many women who lack basic health facilities, many women who are sexually exploited and trafficked illegally, many women who are unemployed and many women who are not allowed to take political participation. Gender is more a non-traditional issue and women have been major victims when it comes to gender security.

The deadly conflicts can be more effectively avoided and peace can be best forged and sustained when women become equal partners in all aspects of peace building and conflict prevention. When their lives are protected, their voices heard and their perspectives taken into account only then security will be ensured at all levels. The security studies need to pay more attention towards the issues of gender discrimination as highlighted by feminist school of thought. The women have been an easiest target throughput history and even in 21st century the world has not become free from oppression and violence towards women. The concept of human security has also failed to cover the gender based discrimination faced by women in any conflict (Glasius, 2008).And looking at various issue areas its evident that the security studies have a bulk of literature but there has not been any true effort to materialize and operationalize comprehensive and all inclusive security of both men and women. The security of states cannot be attained unless every individual in their population is free from violence and oppression of any kind. There is a need to securitize the gender issues and security of both men and women in both peace and war.  Gender based violence gets attention in gender studies and that too at theoretical level.  The gender based discrimination is still prevalent in many societies and world is still not a place where there is equality, where there is freedom and where there is justice when it comes to women and their rights. So looking at gender, it’s quite evident that women have experienced violence and oppression in both peace and war times and security studies must pay more focus to incorporate feminist perspective into their discourse so that the coming generations are free from gender based violence.

Tayyaba Khurshid
Tayyaba Khurshid
Tayyaba Khurshid is a researcher at Center for International Strategic Studies AJk, and also pursuing her Mphil in IR from Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad.