On the Frontlines: Gender, War, and the Post-Conflict Process


Aoláin, Fionnuala Ní, Dina Francesca Haynes, and Naomi Cahn. 2011. On the Frontlines: Gender, War, and the Post-Conflict Process. Oxford University Press. 

Authors: Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Dina Francesca Haynes, Naomi Cahn


Our book, On the Frontlines, gives a comprehensive overview of the post-conflict terrain as it is experienced by women across multiple jurisdictions and in the wake of numerous conflicts. In creating and applying the concept of gender centrality the book addresses how gender can be made central to a range of post-conflict processes, and in so doing how the experiences of marginality and exclusion for women can be structurally and substantively addressed. The book draws on a range of contemporary feminist theorizing to frame its analysis of how gender is pivotal to the post-conflict context. We address: intervention, peacekeeping, development, rule of law, constitution making, DDR, security sector reform, truth processes, and criminal accountability for gender based violence. 

Countries in the post-conflict transition process provide multiple opportunities for transformation on many different levels, including accountability for human rights violations committed during hostilities; reforming local and national laws; reintegration of soldiers; rehabilitation and redress for victims; the establishment or reestablishment of the rule of law, human rights institutions, and governance structures; changing cultural attitudes; and improving socioeconomic conditions. These opportunities are rare in stable and non-transitional societies and explain in part why societies in conflict garner such significant international and institutional attention. The opportunities for massive transformation are, in theory, open-ended.

We explore the role that gender plays in the construction and implementation of the post-conflict transitional process. The book’s approach is feminist in form and in methodology. Multiple strands of feminist theorization provide the foundations for our analysis and some offer contradictory advice on how to proceed. As feminist scholars influenced by varying theoretical outlooks, we draw on a wide range of feminist approaches and theories to inform our thinking on the numerous issues addressed. Viewing processes of transition in conflicted societies through the lens of the multifaceted social movement that constitutes feminist theory and action provides a unique means to assess political, social, and economic change as it works or does not work for women. This methodological choice affirms the importance of a gender lens by firmly unmasking the ways in which situations and constructs appear neutral, but are in practice gendered masculine. We situate the visibility of women’s concerns to the forefront of our inquiries and ultimately seek a recalibration that requires a rethinking of both the masculine and the feminine in conflicted and post-conflict settings.

Conflicts affect both men and women, but women face additional issues during and after wars that men do not, including, of course, pervasive sexual violence, forced impregnation, reproductive violence, sexually transmitted diseases, and forced abortion. Women and their children experience internal displacement and dominate the refugee populations across conflicts. Women are also differentially affected because of their role as the primary caretaker of the household and family. In this regard, traditional gender dichotomies may be further entrenched and exacerbated during times of extreme violence. By contrast, during some conflicts in which aspects of a functioning state and economy continue to exist, women can take on roles as workers and laborers outside of the home, opportunities which would never transpire were the society not in conflict. In this way, as other feminist scholars have noted, conflict opens up intended and unintended spaces for empowerment, “effecting structural and social transformations and producing new social, economic and political realities that redefine gender and caste hierarchies.” In other conflicts, however, women are the least often employed or employable because of their often legally enforced second-class status in many conflict zones. Across most post-conflict transitions, women are the first to be fired and the last to be hired with the large exception of the false economy build-up around the presence of the international community, in which women are paid to fill the “camp follower” positions as housekeepers, cooks, administrative employees, and, of course, for sex. Peacemaking agreements and transitional structures, however, rarely account for these paradoxical roles.

The primary focus of this book is surveying the interplay of gender with conflict and post-conflict processes, allied with the recognition that women must be central to the powerful and transformative potential of the post-conflict terrain. Conflict-ending and transitional processes are already deeply gendered, drawing on existing cultural, legal, and political practices that are deeply embedded across societies and cultures. The entrenched gender coding of such processes is predominantly masculine and operates to include or make women visible in highly selective ways. A core concern here is the assumption by states and international institutions that conflict endings are the same for women as for men. We consistently challenge that assumption. We also contest the idea that the end of conflict constitutes the end of violence, confrontation, vulnerability, or related manifestations of war for women. As the motif of this book’s title suggests, women are invariably at the frontline of conflict, in the physical and metaphysical sense. Their bodies are in the frontline of military strategy and targeting, and the social networks and spaces women maintain are also frontline targets for destruction and undoing. As examples from multiple jurisdictions indicate, the formal end of hostilities between generally male combatants often have little effect on the quality of life for women as they remain vulnerable and at the vanguard of hazards and threats despite paper agreements between elite actors.

(Abstract from Social Science Research Network)

Keywords: gender, international law, human rights law, post conflict, post conflict reconstruction, democratization, governace, rule of law, institution building, feminist international law


Part I - Conflict and its Dynamics 

Chapter 1 - Before, During and After Conflict - The Connections for Women 
Mapping the Status of Women Prior to Conflict 
Some Relevant Measures 
Gender, Law, and Social Capital 
A Practical Assessment of the Before and After 

Chapter 2 - Gender and the Forms and Experiences of Conflict 
Women as Political and Military Actors 
Violence, Women, and Victimization 
Masculinities and Conflict 

Part II - Towards Peace 

Chapter 3 - The Significance of Security: Realizing Peace 
Is Gender Central to Security? 
Security Reform and Transition 
Critique of Mainstream Approaches to the Concept of Post-Conflict Security 
So Where is Gender in Security Reform? 
Security Reform, Transition, and Transnational Interests 
A New Paradigm of Gendered Security 

Chapter 4 - Engendering International Intervention 
International Interventions 
The Actors 
Towards Gender Positive Intervention 
Capturing and Retaining Gender Equity Achieved During War 

Chapter 5 - Peacekeeping 
Parameters and Status of Peacekeeping Missions 
Masculinities of Peacekeeping 
Positive and Negative Lessons Learned from Peacekeeping Missions 
Positives and Negatives of Employment and Economic Stimulus 
Sexual Violence and Peacekeeping Missions 
What Would Gender-Positive Peacekeeping Address? 
Legal Accountability 
Codes of Conduct 
Added Gender Roles in Peacekeeping 

Chapter 6 - Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Programs (DDR) 
DDR Programs: What Happens? 
The Power of Gender and DDR 
Deconstructing DDR Programs 
Reconstructing DDR Programs 
Attention to Masculinities 
The Ways Forward 

Chapter 7 - International and Local Criminal Accountability for Gendered Violence 
Sex-Based Violence and Accountability in International Law 
The Legal Journey to Codify Gendered Crimes in Armed Conflicts 
Evidentiary Rules and Sexual Violence 
Other Accountability Mechanisms - Restorative Justice and Other Practices 

Chapter 8 - Remedies 
Truth Processes 
The Gendered Dimensions of Truth Recovery 
How Can Truth Recovery Mechanisms Centralize Gender? 
Lustration, Vetting, and Gender 

Chapter 9 - Law Reform, Constitutional Design, and Gender 
Gender and the Rule of Law in Post-Conflict Societies 
Constitutional Transformation and Post-Conflict Processes 
Process: Peace Agreements as Constitutional Documents 
Constitutional Gender Centrality - Substance and Export 
Reproductive Rights 

Part III - Reconstruction and Development 

Chapter 10 - Gender and Governance 
Post Conflict Governance 
Institution Building 
Governance Conflated with Economic Reconstruction and Democratization 
Gendering Governance 

Chapter 11 - Development Infrastructure: Economics, Health and Education 
The Differing Directions of Post-conflict and Development Fields 
Gender Centrality in Development 
Social Services Justice as the Integration of Post Conflict 
Processes and Development 
Long-term Development

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Society, DDR, Democracy / Democratization, Development, Domestic Violence, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Men, Masculinity/ies, Gender Roles, Gender Analysis, Femininity/ies, Gender Mainstreaming, Gendered Discourses, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Health, HIV/AIDS, Mental Health, Reproductive Health, Trauma, International Law, International Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law IHL, International Organizations, Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts, Transitional Justice, TRCs, Livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Peacebuilding, Peace Processes, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Rights, Security, Human Security, Sexual Violence, Male Perpetrators, Rape, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, Violence, Weapons /Arms

Year: 2011

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