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Feminist peace research

Gender, Diversity, Conflict

Graphic representation of different people read as female
Image: Alexey_Hulsov, Pixabay

Gender, diversity and conflict is a comparatively recent cross-cutting area in PRIF’s research. In 2022, a lot has happened in this regard: A series on PRIF Blog has been gathering diverse feminist perspectives since 2022. A new project explores how to deal with backsliding in the realization of gender-sensitive human rights in peacebuilding. Last but not least, feminist peace research was also a topic in the Peace Report and other activities in the fields of policy advice and transfer.

The impact of war and conflict can vary greatly for people depending on their gender identity and sexual orientation. After the Russian attack on Ukraine, for example, gender roles in war were widely discussed. For instance, it is predominantly women, often with children or elderly relatives, who are fleeing, while men are not allowed to leave the country. These different dynamics can only be seen with a gendered focus. At the same time, feminist research serves to break down often unchallenged stereotypes. The example of Ukraine also shows that women in war are not only victims. On the one hand, they take on caregiving tasks and are particularly vulnerable when rape is used as a weapon of war. On the other hand, they also fill a variety of other roles, such as combatants, activists, and negotiators.

Wars often have a particularly harsh impact on individuals from the LGBTIQ* community. Individuals who are discriminated against along other dimensions, such as race or disability, are also particularly vulnerable. Therefore, looking at gender alone is not enough. An intersectional feminist analysis, i.e. an analysis that takes into account different forms of discrimination and multiple discrimination, opens up a variety of new perspectives on the issues in peace and conflict studies.

Feminist Peace Research: Series on PRIF blog

Since May 2022, the series “Feminist Peace Research” on PRIF Blog has gathered feminist perspectives on a variety of topics. The series is edited by Simone Wisotzki and Victoria Scheyer in collaboration with PRIF’s Department of Science Communication. Analyses on the blog cover areas such as foreign and security policy, human rights, flight and migration, as well as socio-political issues and social justice.

The “Women, Peace, Security” agenda (UN Resolution 1325) calls on UN member states to provide special protection for women and girls in war zones and to strengthen women’s political participation in peace negotiations, conflict mediation and reconstruction. To implement this, each country establishes its own National Action Plan. But what does it mean to adapt the National Action Plan to the needs of a population at war? PRIF researcher Hanna Manoilenko’s article highlights how this task is being addressed in Ukraine during the Russian war of aggression and formulates recommendations for the international community.

Visiting researcher Xie Peixuan’s contribution also focuses on the “Women, Peace, Security” agenda. The coup in Myanmar in 2021 caused forms of gender-based violence. In her article, Xie Peixuan traces the feminist resistance movements against these forms of violence and argues that UN Resolution 1325 is insufficient to effectively support the struggle.

PRIF associate fellow Farnaz Dezfouli-Asl takes a look at the protests in Iran in her article. The struggle for women’s rights, she argues, unites very different groups and social classes and serves as a starting point for a much broader movement demanding democracy and the rule of law.

In 2022, the first eight articles were published, and the series is continued in 2023.

Peace Report 2022: How can feminist foreign policy succeed?

Under the title “Gender, Diversity and Violence,” the second chapter of the Peace Report 2022 also addresses feminist perspectives on conflict and peacebuilding. The authors, including PRIF researchers Simone Wisotzki, Victoria Scheyer and Clara Perras, point to the role of gender-based violence at all levels, ranging from domestic violence to interstate conflicts. They also formulate conditions for success for a feminist foreign policy.

For feminist foreign policy to succeed, the authors state in the Peace Report, it must avoid reproducing gender stereotypes and racism. This includes not only traditional gender roles, such as the characterization of women as “victims” with no agency of their own. A paternalistic view of development cooperation that divides the world into “donors” and “recipients” must also be avoided.

Patriarchal structures and military rationales are closely linked. Therefore, the broad social acceptance of such normative notions of gender roles can serve to legitimize an imperial claim to leadership, as can be seen in the example of Russian politics. But the authors point out that there are deficits in NATO countries as well. Finally, feminist domestic policy is also needed in return.

Without feminist domestic policy, social peace is at risk and feminist foreign policy is not credible.

Peace Report 2022, p. 85 (translated from German)

Interview with Simone Wisotzki

Simone Wisotzki

Dr habil. Simone Wisotzki is a Senior Researcher at PRIF’s research department “International Security”. She conducts research on humanitarian arms control, arms exports and gender perspectives in peace and conflict research.

  1. Since March 2022, you have been working on the project “Dealing with contestations and backlashes of gender equality in peacebuilding,” which is funded by the German Foundation for Peace Research (DSF). What is it about?

    We asked various actors to what extent they experience resistance and setbacks in their daily project work when it comes to implementing gender-sensitive human rights in peacebuilding. We were astonished and appalled by the extent of this resistance and the fact that activists often experience violence and even death threats. Gender-sensitive peace work is experiencing considerable backsliding, and that worldwide!

  2. The term feminist foreign policy has gained significant prominence in recent years. Do you see any progress here?

    It is good that feminist foreign policy is raising public awareness of the problems of gender hierarchies and inequalities. But feminist foreign policy is only as good as its concrete implementation. Germany needs to do much more in this area. It also lacks a feminist domestic policy. This includes a migration policy that takes into account gender-specific causes of flight. In Afghanistan in particular, women and girls are discriminated against on the basis of their gender, excluded from public life and threatened with death if they resist. But LGBTIQ* are also at risk worldwide and decide to flee because of this gender-specific vulnerability.