Overcoming a Culture of Violence

To establish security following a violent conflict, the culture of violence must be thoroughly transformed by gender policy and feminist perspectives. The state plays a two-sided role in this multi-layered process: On the one hand it provides security, yet its gender blind structures also pose specific potential threats to women and girls. When violence escalates, the integrity of the state often disintegrates. 

Two of the greatest challenges in conflict management are to disempower violent perpetrators and to restore a functioning rule of law. These objectives are particularly important for women, due to the fact that sexualized violence increases in violent contexts. It is thus in women’s interests to restore the state’s monopoly on violence and to penalize each individual act of violence. 

Although the state can act as a guarantor of security for women, it can also be a source of insecurity. Every security strategy, therefore, must be examined for its effects on gender and population groups. Security must include legally guaranteed protection against sexualized violence, which means passing the requisite legislation, training police forces, sensitizing judges, and setting up shelters and hotlines. Both genders must have opportunities to address the traumas of war and sexualized violence. Victims of violence require special support, while perpetrators must be publicly prosecuted within the legal system, to transform the culture of violence in a postwar society. Prerequisites for this include a broad concept of security, sensitization of the police and judicial staff, better protection for victims, and support for witnesses who testify against perpetrators. The most important allies in this process are the local initiatives that address the subject of sexualized violence – a taboo in many societies – in culturally and politically sensitive ways. 

Different needs must be addressed when demobilizing male and female combatants. There must, for instance, be specific re-integration programs for women and men, to counteract social ostracism should they not wish to revert to their old gender roles.