Civil Society Perspectives on Sexual Violence in Conflict: Patriarchy and War Strategy in Colombia

Citation:

Kreft, Anne-Kathrin. 2020. "Civil Society Perspectives on Sexual Violence in Conflict: Patriarchy and War Strategy in Colombia." International Affairs 96 (2): 457-78.

Author: Anne-Kathrin Kreft

Abstract:

In international policy circles, conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) is commonly viewed as a weapon of war, a framing that researchers have criticized as overly simplistic. Feminist scholars in particular caution that the ‘weapon of war’ framing decontextualizes sexual violence in conflict from the structural factors of gender inequality that underpin its perpetration. In light of these tensions, how do politically relevant local actors perceive the nature and the origins of conflict-related sexual violence? Civil society organizations often actively confront conflict-related sexual violence on the ground. A better understanding of how their perceptions of this violence align or clash with the globally dominant ‘weapon of war’ narratives therefore has important policy implications. Interviews with representatives of Colombian women's organizations and victims' associations reveal that these civil society activists predominantly view conflict-related sexual violence as the result of patriarchal structures. The mobilized women perceive sexual violence as a very gendered violence that exists on a continuum extending through peace, the everyday and war, and which the presence of arms exacerbates. Strategic sexual violence, too, is understood to ultimately have its basis in patriarchal structures. The findings expose a disconnect between the globally dominant ‘weapon of war’ understanding that is decontextualized from structural factors and a local approach to CRSV that establishes clear linkages to societal gender inequality.

Topics: Civil Society, Conflict, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Gender Equality/Inequality, Sexual Violence Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Colombia

Year: 2020

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