What’s War Got to Do with It? Post-conflict Effects on Gender Equality in South and Southeast Asia, 1975–2006

Published date01 April 2019
Date01 April 2019
Subject MatterArticles
What’s War Got to Do
with It? Post-conflict
Effects on Gender
Equality in South
and Southeast Asia,
Srobana Bhattacharya1
Courtney Burns1
Does gender equality get better or worse following civil conflict? Given the
plethora of research linking gender equality to less bellicosity, we aim to look at
the relationship between post-conflict situations and gender equality. Specifically,
we argue that circumstances surrounding how a conflict ends can better explain
gender equality levels in a country in the post-conflict set up. We discuss whether
outright victory for rebel groups will have the best impact for women due to
the regime change and democratic process that typically follows. We conduct
a Qualitative Comparative Analysis of 13 cases of intrastate conflicts in South
and Southeast Asia for the years 1975–2006 along with an in-depth case study
of Nepal. We find that rebel victory does have a positive impact on women in
post-conflict situations when religious freedom was high, the conflict was centre
seeking and wanted to establish a democratic regime.
Post-conflict, gender equality, conflict termination, civil war
Does gender equality get better or worse following civil conflict? Scholarship on
gender and conflict recognizes that post-conflict reconstruction must include gender
1 Department of Political Science and International Studies, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro,
Georgia, USA.
Corresponding author:
Srobana Bhattacharya, Department of Political Science and International Studies, Georgia Southern
University, P.O. Box 8101, Statesboro, Georgia 30460 8101, USA.
E-mail: sbhattacharya@georgiasouthern.edu
Journal of Asian Security
and International Affairs
6(1) 55–81, 2019
The Author(s) 2019
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/2347797018824948
56 Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs 6(1)
equality and is vital for sustainable peace (Caprioli, 2003, 2005; Melander, 2005;
Zuckerman & Greenberg, 2004). The Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing
in 1995 asserted that a gender perspective should be actively included in policies and
programmes addressing armed or other conflicts (United Nations Fourth World
Conference on Women, 1995). Moreover, on 31 October 2000, the groundbreaking
Security Council Resolution 1325 was adopted which reaffirms the significant role
of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace building (United
Nations Security Council Resolutions [UNSCR] 1325). These recognitions, however,
do not always translate into actual change. Gender advocates are concerned about the
lack of focus on this issue and limited resources that are allocated towards the gender
dimensions of post-conflict reconstruction (Kandiyoti, 2007).
In the peace process following the 2002 ceasefire agreement between the
Government of Sri Lanka and Liberation of Tamil Tigers of Ealam (LTTE), women
were excluded from the process despite the previous release of United Nations
Security Council Resolution 1325. This led women’s groups to urge the government
and LTTE for their inclusion (Manchanda, 2005). Similarly, in Nepal, demand for
increased women’s participation in political decision-making has been a vital issue
on women’s organizations’ agendas throughout the post-conflict period. Lobbying
for female representation in the 2006 peace negotiations did not immediately lead
to successful results, but women’s organizations have made efforts to promote
political participation during and after the signing of the comprehensive Peace
Accord (CPA) which led to the adoption of a 33 per cent gender quota in parliament
(Falch, 2010). While many areas of post-conflict gender justice have improved,
more needs to be done to redress sexual violence and marginalized women’s access
to the justice system (Askin, 2002; Becker, 2015).
Gender equality encompasses a wide variety of issues. It is often measured
through fertility rates and participation in the labour force, but scholars also
include a rights-based approach to fully understand the overall dimension of the
term. Zuckerman and Greenberg (2004) propose three interrelated kinds of
rights—the right to participate meaningfully in policymaking and resource
allocation, the right to benefit equally from private and public resources and the
right to build a gender-equitable society for lasting peace and stability. Manjoo
and McRaith (2011) mention that it is important to incorporate women into the
justice process by creating space for women leaders, strengthening national
legislation, training judicial and law enforcement personnel and creating special
courts to counter the rise of gender-based violence. Singh (2017) and Luna, Van
Der Haar, and Hilhorst (2017) argue that in several cases, gender dimensions are
complex, multilayered and contextual because it intersects with multiple but
differing hierarchies of caste, class and religion. Especially in areas where power
is patriarchal, these intersecting identities are complex. Women’s lived experiences
are not universal, and various authors mention that this aspect is missing in key
debates in international politics and as mentioned by Enloe (2000), ‘the personal
is international’ (p. 195). Yuval-Davis (2016) mentions that through intersectional
analysis, we should be able to locate the ways any political projects affect people
who are differentially located within the same boundaries of belonging. By

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