Friday, April 29, 2011

Intimate Violence in the Post-Conflict Context: New Data

In the post-conflict context, international and local institutions and actors may narrowly focus on particular forms of physical violence to the person caused by state or armed actors in addressing security. They aim to deliver conventional notions of security such as demobilization, protection for soldiers to return home, clearing landmines, and new roles for security officers. The focus is generally on official government actors and institutions and former militia members. They usually entirely exclude the ‘private’ and home domain from any understanding of a secure environment. The marked emphasis on public acts means that private acts are neglected, inscribing a distinction that feminism has challenged between the public and the private. What generally matters is what occurred on streets, in public spaces and in formal institutional settings. Violations occurring within the home, or close to private intimate spaces that women themselves describe as central to their experiences of vulnerability and violation are deemed to fall within the ‘private’ domain in most legal and social systems. As a result they are frequently outside the circle of notice and accountability. Thus, what happens within people's homes is not deemed important and is often entirely invisible.
Some studies, however, are breaking this silence. In 2007, an extensive survey by Global Rights of Afghan women, for example, found that almost 90% had experienced either forced marriage or at least one form of physical, sexual or psychological abuse. And, recently, at the Population Association of America Annual Meeting, a new study on violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo documented the high levels of violence there. Although the underlying article is embargoed, the abstract notes that “[a]pproximately 1.69 – 1.80 million women report being raped in their lifetime (407,397 – 433,785 in the last 12 months), and 3.07 – 3.37 million women report experiencing intimate partner sexual violence in a country of approximately 63.23 – 66.97 million.”
As these studies make clear, gender security in the post-conflict context is a rich concept that extends beyond physical security to include civil, political, economic, and cultural security for men and women, boys and girls. It includes formal and enforceable legal rights as well as opportunities to participate in the economic and political life of the country.

[This post is primarily drawn from our forthcoming book, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Dina Haynes, and Naomi Cahn, On the Frontlines (OUP 2011).]

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