Home - Other Articles - Gender and War

Gender and War


From the very beginning of the human civilization to till today it is hard to find war free world for a single day. War between nations, states, communities, ethnic groups, and organized groups is a continuous activity. But who are the most vulnerable and victimized in war? Certainly it is female. Why not male? Feminist thinkers found the discriminating role of gender in war. Liberal feminism does not treat war very differently from other aspects of social life in which men dominate the high paying, advanced role (Goldstein1, 2001. p. 39). As far as available evidence goes, no society exclusively populated or controlled by women, nor one in which women were the primary fighters, has ever existed (Goldstein, 2001. p. 19). Liberal feminists are highly dissatisfied with this situation. Liberal feminists argue that women equal men in ability, and that the gendering of war reflects male discrimination against women. Women have the right to participate in all social and political roles (Including war roles) without facing discrimination (Goldstein, 2001. p. 39). On this point, I agree that men and women have equal physical and mental ability (if they get equal opportunities from family, society, state from their birth!). But in the present real world, in most cases women have less physical strength than men as women are suffering from the discrimination (from family, society, culture, religion and so on). So this is the matter of ‘gendering war’, as it’s a scenario of discrimination that we see every areas of the society. Goldstein hypothesized that gender roles are consistent in war across the society (p. 9). ‘Gender roles vary across the cultures when it comes to the household and child care responsibilities (p. 7). I do not think that gender role in war is always consistent. If we see the victimization (rape for example) of women in war, yes it is consistent in every culture. But if we see participation as soldiers in war, it is not consistent rather it differs country to country, culture to culture as we see 12% of soldiers are women in some countries whereas 0.5% in other countries (Dan2, 1999, p.64). It is true that still discrimination is there but intensity differs.

1.       Golstein, J. (2001). A pazzle the cross-cultural consistency of gender roles in war. War and gender. Cambridge University Press.

2.       Dan, S. (1999). Towards a women’s agenda for a culture of peace. UNESCO Publishing.

Eleanor declared that “Peace is not a feminist issue” (Goldstein, 2001. pp. 40, 41). Women are mother (calm and quiet) who give birth of child. They are creator who cannot ruin it. Creation associated with peace. Men are considered as violent, less responsible, and challenging (though feminist do not agree). My argument differs as rape is a very common violence as well as weapon in war. If the number of female combatant would have increased then the women of defeated state did not rape by male solders as many. But in this policy, female solders can also be raped by the male members of opposite group.  Or in that case opposite problem can create. Though this is very first incident and number is very little but happened in Iraqi jail. Male prisoners have sexually harassed or violated by female solders then how we will explain it?

Women act on behalf of peace….only to protect their families and children (Caiazza, 2011). On this point, I should say that women believe on their responsibilities not only for guaranteeing their families’ welfare but also welfare of society and country. We have example of Sindi Sihan of USA, who lost his son in the Iraq war, to mobilize US people against the Iraq war. We also have the examples of many women who are working for peacemaking in the society and world in many ways. It is true if women have more rights and equality it will increase national standard of living, national income and other social security’s and thus lead to peaceful world.

Victimization (of women) became a powerful reason to go to war. Laura bush stated that…..The veil or burqa was represented in the west as symbol of oppression and evidences of ‘irrational barbarian’ by Taliban (steans, 2006, ch. 4, p. 53). Yes some Muslim women forced to wear veil. But I would like to argue that victimization of women does not matter always as we see at recent France where the veil is banned and under penalty. Here also the victim is women who herself wants to wear the veil from her own religious belief and understanding and it is a question of human right. In this case, western leaders are not telling for war. So war is for protecting power, extracting resources and so on; but not for protecting women’s victimization!

The Prophet was accompanied by women in the wars that he waged, and..…his wife Ayisha took to the battlefields heading an army against the Shiia imam Ali (Haleh, 2003. p. 178). But what have been happening after fourteen hundreds years later? After coming back from war, Muslim society does not receive a female solder normally. She has to suffer with various social problems especially marriage where marriage is the norm and often the mission of young women. What about in the western societies? Are they receiving the women combatants cordially? Whereas male solders are treating completely opposite way in all societies. They are considering as the national hero and protector of the nation. My question- who are they? Are they not those solders who raped the innocent and disarmed women and girls in Bosnia? Are they not those solders who raped the innocent girls before their father in Rwanda, Uganda, Iraq, and Sierra Leoan? Are they feel shame? How they are considering these acts? And what are the respective governments thinking about these wars?

3.       Caiazza A. (2001) Why gender matters in understanding September 11: women, militarism, and violence,  IWPR

4.       Steans J. (2006) Chapter 4: Feminist Perspectives on War and Peace, Gender and International Relations, 2nd edition. Cambridge: Polity Press,  pp.47-62)

5.       Haleh, A. (2003). Women and wars: some trajectories towards a feminist peace. Development in Practice, V. 13, N.2&3, May 2003.

Conclusion: Gender related violence and gendering of war persisting in the world pervasively. Women are violated in both war and peace situation as we see also in other areas of society.

-Dr. Shafiqul Islam

(If you like the post, you may comment on the following box. or you may email to me। You may share in Facebook or Linkedin)

Share Now

Dr. Shafiqul Islam

(BBA, MBA, DU; Mphil, Japan; PhD, Australia) Deputy Secretary, Government of Bangladesh. Chief Executive Officer, Cumilla City Corporation, Local Government Division, Ministry of LGRD
error: Content is protected !!

My Shopping Cart