The Intractability of Militarised Masculinity: A Case Study of Former Self-Defence Unit Members in the Kathorus Area, South Africa


Langa, Malose, and Gillian Eagle. 2008. “The Intractability of Militarised Masculinity: A Case Study of Former Self-Defence Unit Members in the Kathorus Area, South Africa.” South African Journal of Psychology 38 (1): 152–75.

Authors: Malose Langa, Gillian Eagle


The study explores the struggle to maintain and transform a 'masculine' identity acquired primarily as a consequence of serving as part of a township-based paramilitary force in the pre-democratic South Africa. Based on accounts of former Self-Defence Unit (SDU) members from the Kathorus region (a group of townships on the perimeter of Johannesburg), the article explores some of the forces that influenced young men to become involved in political violence, the status this bestowed upon them, and how aspects of their 'militarised identity have come into conflict with new constructs of masculinity in a post-apartheid South Africa'. Although the experiences of South African ex-combatants have been documented in a number of reports and articles (Gear, 2002; Marks, 2001; Mashike & Mokalobe, 2003; Xaba, 2001), this article seeks to highlight the intractability of a particular form of masculine identity attained during the pivotal stage of early and late adolescent development. The negative consequences of this weddedness to a militarised masculinity for both the men themselves and the broader society are explored, together with some of the dimensions that appear to make this identity so compelling and so difficult to transform. The article draws upon theoretical understandings that suggest that gender and masculinity are socially constructed, and is based on data collected by means of individual interviews and focus groups conducted, with former combatants. The interviews reveal that images of militarised masculinity were popularised and dominant during the liberation struggle against apartheid, particularly amongst urban youth who were recruited into resistance activities. Young combatants were expected to be strong, brave, tough, fearless, aggressive, and violent. In many urban townships, young boys who were not part of the liberation struggle and youth politics were constructed as lacking in masculinity. Post 1994, virtually overnight, young combatants were expected to relinquish their militarised roles and to adopt new forms of masculinity without the facilitation of any demilitarisation programme to address the complexities of this transformation in their social and personal identity. The interviews reveal that many of these former combatants feel betrayed, forgotten, and alienated in post-apartheid South Africa. Some have carried their militarised masculinities into the new democracy, continuing to be involved in violent activities and risk-taking behaviours. Although many of them appear to be suffering from symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other aspects of war trauma, attending counselling is seen as a sign of weakness and as an insult to militarised masculinity. The article argues that interventions to assist with identity transformation and greater social integration of such marginalised young men need to take account of these dynamics.

Topics: Age, Youth, Combatants, Gender, Men, Boys, Masculinity/ies, Health, PTSD, Trauma, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization, Post-Conflict Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 2008

Cutting the Web of Interests: Pitfalls of Formalizing Property Rights


Meinzen-Dick, Ruth, and Esther Mwangi.2009. “Cutting the Web of Interests: Pitfalls of Formalizing Property Rights.” Land Use Policy 26: 36-43.

Authors: Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Esther Mwangi


Property rights to land can be thought of as a web of interests, with many different parties having a right to use, regulate, or manage the resource, which may be based on a range of customary institutions or local norms as well as state law. These interests often play a critical role in livelihoods, social relations, and ecological functions. The formalization of property rights has historically led to a cutting of this web, creating more exclusive forms of rights over the resource. Drawing from case studies in Kenya the paper emphasizes the risk of excluding legitimate claimants in formalization processes that focus on individual titling. By collapsing all rights within individuals, such programs have negated the distinct multiple claims by women, youths, and seasonal users, among others. We examine ways in which formalization processes can secure diverse claims, and highlight the need for a better understanding of the social and ecological implications of existing land tenure before they are undermined by formalization.


Keywords: land access, Property Rights, social relations, ecological functions


“Although tenure was grounded in a patrilineal system, Taita women traditionally had use rights in particular parcels of land, acquired primarily as wives or widows. Widows had the right to pawn, or sell parcels on behalf of minor heirs. The land tenure reform jeopardized women’s’ use rights and autonomy in agricultural decision-making. Because title deeds were issued in the name of husbands only, women ended up with no enforceable rights in traditional or modern law to even the use of the parcel or any portion of it. In addition, the guardianship rights of widows over deceased husbands’ property are threatened by the registration of the consolidated plot in the husband's name only, because it impairs their right to make decisions, including sales of land, on behalf of minor sons.” (39)


Topics: Age, Youth, Gender, Women, Land Tenure, Rights, Land Rights, Property Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Kenya

Year: 2009

Patriarchy, Militarization, and the Gender Gap in Education: The Case of Pakistan


Azhar, Talat. 2009. "Patriarchy, Militarization, and the Gender Gap in Education: The Case of Pakistan." PhD diss., Pennsylvania State University.

Author: Talat Azhar


This study investigated the effects of patriarchy and militarization on women's educational attainment in Pakistan, where the literacy rate is among the lowest in the world, roughly two-thirds of all women cannot read or write, and even modest goals of girls' primary school enrollments seem elusive. Some progress has been made toward universal primary school enrollment, but by and large, secondary and tertiary education has remained beyond the reach of women in many parts of South Asia, including Pakistan. Efforts to improve women's education in Pakistan have focused on issues related to underdevelopment, poverty, and religious fundamentalism. Consequently, most literature addresses school, family, and community factors as the primary barriers to participation in education. My thesis represents the first attempt at exploring the power relations emerging from patriarchy and militarization, and their collective contribution to gender differences in educational attainment in Pakistan. Using data from the Adolescent and Youth Survey of Pakistan, conducted by the Population Council and the government of Pakistan in 2001-2002, I have investigated the reasons for persistence in women's low educational attainment. I used binary logistic regression to analyze three dependent variables: currently attending school, primary school completion, and ever attended school. Results of this study suggest that girls are at a distinct disadvantage relative to boys in educational attainment. Girls are also far less likely to seek an education because of perceived social undesirability of schooling and lack of empowerment to make decisions regarding their lives. A further analysis reveals that the disadvantages increase during the military government. The findings of this study have implications for providing policy direction toward achieving gender parity in education as a first step and subsequently striving for universal primary education in postcolonial conflict zones. More specifically, the findings point to a need to look beyond establishing girls' primary schools for a solution to the education crisis.

Topics: Age, Youth, Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Education, Gender, Women, Girls, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Post-Conflict Governance, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization, Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Pakistan

Year: 2009

Strategic Transformation: Cultural and Gender Identity Negotiation in First-Generation Vietnamese Youth


Stritikus, Tom, and Diem Nguyen. 2007. "Strategic Transformation: Cultural and Gender Identity Negotiation in First-Generation Vietnamese Youth." American Educational Research Journal 44 (4): 853-95.

Authors: Tom Stritikus, Diem Nguyen


This article explores the various ways in which recent Vietnamese immigrant students form cultural and gender identities as they transition to U.S. schooling. Using data from a 2-year qualitative study that tracked the social and academic adjustment processes of recent Vietnamese immigrant youth, this article examines the tensions that students struggle with as they bring their own values and practices into the school site. The findings suggest that gender functions as a complex social category for recent immigrants that shifts across social contexts. The authors argue that accounting for a full picture of gender identity more accurately captures the manner in which recent immigrant students adapt to U.S. schooling.

Keywords: immigration, gender identity

Topics: Age, Youth, Education, Gender Regions: Americas, North America, Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: United States of America, Vietnam

Year: 2007

The Psychological and Medical Sequelae of War in Central American Refugee Mothers and Children


Locke, Catherine J., Karen Southwick, Lauren A. McCloskey, and Maria Eugenia Fernández-Esquer. 1996. "The Psychological and Medical Sequelae of War in Central American Refugee Mothers and Children." Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 150 (8): 822-28.

Authors: Catherine. J. Locke, Karen Southwick, Lauren. A. McCloskey, Maria Eugenia Fernández-Esquer


Objective: To investigate the physical and mainly psychological sequelae of exposure to war in Central American children and their mothers who immigrated to the United States on average 4 years before the study began.

Design: Interview study.

Participants: Twenty-two immigrant Central American women caretakers and 1 of their children aged 5 to 13 years.

Main Outcome Measures: Standardized and new measures were administered to assess children's physical and mental health symptoms and exposure to political violence.

Results: Eighteen of the 22 children had chronic health problems. Fifteen children and all of the adults had observed traumatic events, including bombings and homicides. Thirteen of the children showed mental health symptom profiles above established norms, although only 2 met the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder according to their own reports. Many of the caretakers were unaware of their child's psychological distress. Four of the mothers exhibited posttraumatic stress disorder, and their symptoms predicted their child's mental health.

Conclusions: Pediatricians are sometimes the first and only contacts these families have with health care providers. Caretakers' reports of children's mental health are often incomplete. It is therefore important for physicians to probe for "hidden" symptoms in refugee children. These family members may need referrals to social and psychological services, and pediatricians can open the gates to existing community networks of support. Because we found that maternal mental health influences the child's, the child's interests are well served when pediatricians also encourage the mother to contact services for herself if she confides that she is experiencing some of the severe psychological sequelae reported by the women in this study.

Keywords: female refugees, refugee children, mental health, trauma

Topics: Age, Youth, Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Gender, Women, Girls, Boys, Health, Mental Health, PTSD, Trauma, Violence Regions: Americas, Central America

Year: 1996

Children and Mothers in War: An Outcome Study of a Psychosocial Intervention Program


Dybdahl, Ragnhild. 2001. "Children and Mothers in War: An Outcome Study of a Psychosocial Intervention Program." Child Development 72 (4): 1214-30.

Author: Ragnhild Dybdahl


The present study was designed to evaluate the effects on children (age: M=5.5 years) in war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina of a psychosocial intervention program consisting of weekly group meetings for mothers for 5 months. An additional aim was to investigate the children's psychosocial functioning and the mental health of their mothers. Internally displaced mother-child dyads were randomly assigned to an intervention group receiving psychosocial support and basic medical care (n=42) or to a control group receiving medical care only (n=45). Participants took part in interviews and tests to provide information about war exposure, mental health, psychosocial functioning, intellectual abilities, and physical health. Results showed that although all participants were exposed to severe trauma, their manifestations of distress varied considerably. The intervention program had a positive effect on mothers' mental health, children's weight gain, and several measures of children's psychosocial functioning and mental health, whereas there was no difference between the two groups on other measures. The findings have implications for policy.

Keywords: mental health

Topics: Age, Youth, Gender, Women, Girls, Boys, Health, Mental Health Regions: Europe, Balkans Countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina

Year: 2001

Sierra Leone's Former Child Soldiers: A Longitudinal Study of Risk, Protective Factors, and Mental Health


Betancourt, Theresa S., Robert T. Brennan, Julia Rubin-Smith, Garrett M. Fitzmaurice, and Stephen E. Gilman. 2010. "Sierra Leone's Former Child Soldiers: A Longitudinal Study of Risk, Protective Factors, and Mental Health." Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 49 (6): 606-15.

Authors: Theresa S. Betancourt, Robert T. Brennan, Julia Rubin-Smith, Garrett M. Fitzmaurice, Stephen E. Gilman


OBJECTIVE: To investigate the longitudinal course of internalizing and externalizing problems and adaptive/prosocial behaviors among Sierra Leonean former child soldiers and whether postconflict factors contribute to adverse or resilient mental health outcomes.

METHOD: Male and female former child soldiers (N = 260, aged 10 to 17 years at baseline) were recruited from the roster of an non-governmental organization (NGO)-run Interim Care Center in Kono District and interviewed in 2002, 2004, and 2008. The retention rate was 69%. Linear growth models were used to investigate trends related to war and postconflict experiences.

RESULTS: The long-term mental health of former child soldiers was associated with war experiences and postconflict risk factors, which were partly mitigated by postconflict protective factors. Increases in externalizing behavior were associated with killing/injuring others during the war and postconflict stigma, whereas increased community acceptance was associated with decreases in externalizing problems (b = -1.09). High baseline levels of internalizing problems were associated with being raped, whereas increases were associated with younger involvement in armed groups and social and economic hardships. Improvements in internalizing problems were associated with higher levels of community acceptance and increases in community acceptance (b = -0.86). Decreases in adaptive/prosocial behaviors were associated with killing/injuring others during the war and postconflict stigma, but partially mitigated by social support, being in school and increased community acceptance (b = 1.93).

CONCLUSIONS: Psychosocial interventions for former child soldiers may be more effective if they account for postconflict factors in addition to war exposures. Youth with accumulated risk factors, lack of protective factors, and persistent distress should be identified. Sustainable services to promote community acceptance, reduce stigma, and expand social supports and educational access are recommended.

Keywords: child soldiers, mental health

Topics: Age, Youth, Armed Conflict, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Gender, Girls, Boys, Health, Mental Health, Trauma, Military Forces & Armed Groups, NGOs, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence, Rape, Violence Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2010

Women, Children and Returnees


Arnvig, Eva. 1994. "Women, Children and Returnees." In Between Hope and Insecurity: The Social Consequences of the Cambodian Peace Process, edited by Peter Utting, 83-103. Geneva: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.

Author: Eva Arnvig


This chapter examines the situation of women, children and returnees in Cambodia and the social impact of the large-scale United Nations presence. Following a brief description of certain general aspects related to family traditions, the position of women in the economy, education and health, the chapter examines a number of social and socio-psychological problems that have risen to the fore in recent years. These include post-war trauma, the reintegration of refugees, prostitution, drugs and street children. Particular attention is focused on the extent to which the behaviour of United Nations peace-keeping and security personnel may have contributed to certain social problems as well as the souring of relations between UNTAC and the host population.


  • Families who have issues assimilating after times of conflict face having to sell their children or allow their children to enter urban areas as street children or prostitutes. Other children are forced to work in plantations to earn money offering a stark change from growing up in refugee camps.

  • Many indigenous peoples blame UNTAC for increases in sexually transmitted infections, street crimes, poverty, and starvation for being unable to efficiently and successfully offer aid in the reintegration process.


“The Total Institution Syndrome has a serious affect on mental attitude and behaviour. It manifests itself in apathy, aggression, violent behaviour, abrupt changes of mood, depression and tiredness along with physical disorders such as headaches and stomach problems.” (92)

Topics: Age, Youth, Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Gender, Women, Health, Mental Health, Trauma, Humanitarian Assistance, Indigenous, International Organizations, Livelihoods, Sexual Livelihoods, Peacekeeping, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 1994


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