The Gender Dimensions of Violence and Conflict: The Case of Inter-Ethnic Land Conflict in Mt. Elgon, Kenya

Citation:

Kimkung, Pamela and Cristina Espinosa. 2012. "The Gender Dimensions of Violence and Conflict: The Case of Inter-Ethnic Land Conflict in Mt. Elgon, Kenya." International Journal of Development and Conflict 2 (3).

Authors: Pamela Kimkung, Cristina Espinosa

Abstract:

The violence displayed during the inter-ethnic land conflicts in Mount Elgon–which started in 2005 and escalated in the midst of the nation-wide 2007 Post Election Violence–reveals not only the limits of post-colonial states to reverse the colonial expropriation of land that destroyed indigenous land tenure systems and accentuated inter-ethnic conflicts; it reveals the gender dimensions of the conflict, where men and women were differently affected before, during, and after the conflict. While gender and sexual based violence (GSBV) was not restricted to women there were important differences that confirms the subordinated status of women and the heavier cost they had to pay. While men were also subjected to GSBV in the form of torture and/or castration it was mostly some young men who were targeted for this abuse. By contrast, women raped and sexually abused ranged from little girls to old women, since women of all age were targeted for GSBV; while men experienced GSBV only during the conflict as inflicted either by enemies or the army, women experienced GSBV before, during, and after the conflict. Not only did they experience it from the militia, the army or the camp's guards but also from their own husbands in the form of domestic sexual violence; women also carried the stigma of rape and abuse forever after the episodes. While SGBV seriously challenged the masculinity of those individual men affected, it did not challenged the patriarchal hierarchies that keep women and girls subordinated, unable to find a nurturing environment to heal their wounds after the conflict. On the contrary, after the GSBV and abuse, women faced stigma and isolation and severe health issues in a context of social disruption of family, kin, and clan structures. The different ways men and women were affected by the conflict has severe implications for the post-conflict interventions which being gender-blind, have not been gender neutral, reinforcing female subordination and trauma among the survivors of the conflict. Some reflections on how to make post-conflict interventions more gender-sensitive are also presented.

Keywords: gender and sexual based violence, gender and post-conflict interventions, inter-ethnic land conflict and gender

Topics: Armed Conflict, Ethnic/Communal Wars, Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Conflict, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Post-Conflict, Rights, Indigenous Rights, Land Rights, Sexual Violence, Rape, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, Torture Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Kenya

Year: 2012

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