Gender is a growing topic discussed in the national, regional, and global socio-political landscape. The subject of P/CVE is not an exception for gender, which often rules out women’s participation at the negotiation table, even though the study shows that women are involved both as victims and perpetrators. Especially in Southeast Asia, women have been noted as part of the combatant groups. One such group is the Inong Bale, who have also participated in post-conflict rehabilitation programs in Aceh (Masrizal et al., 2020). The evidence proves that it is essential to promote and involve women in the topics of P/CVE. Hence, this article aims to answer why gender matters in countering violent extremism.
The term gender refers to the non-physical difference between men and women. Gender understanding is socially constructed and reflected in roles, behavior, and qualities deemed acceptable for men and women, boys and girls (UN Women, 2020). Gender became an issue when early CVE programs focused on a military-based approach that was dominantly based on the perspectives of male leaders, which is also a facet of CVE programs. As a result, there is a lack of credible voices from women within P/CVE programs.
The lack of perspectives from women in this area has negative consequences for the basic rights of women and girls, which include their access to food, healthcare, education, and social life, which are still being undermined in armed violent conflict areas (Henty & Eggleston, 2018). However, women are also potent as perpetrators. A study conducted in five violent extremist groups found that female suicide attacks recorded 8.4 average victims compared to 5.3 of their male counterparts, meaning attacks carried out by women are more lethal than men (O’rour, 2009). This consequence is partly why the women, peace, and security (WPS) agenda is essential to be promoted because gender analysis would contribute to a more practical P/CVE approach.
Gender analysis would bring alternative insight to the P/CVE approach. To achieve this, an effort to mainstream gender in discussions about P/CVE must be made. The effort can be based on Fraser’s three remedies for injustice: recognition, redistribution, and representation (Fraser, 1997). A study by the Women League of Burma (WLB) found several challenges to the implementation of the WPS agenda on the grassroots level, such as limited recognition, uneven distribution of resources and possibility for conflict-affected women groups, and exclusionary representation in decision-making processes plagued the implementation of the WPS agenda (Olivius, Hedström, Mar Phyo, 2022). This proves that mainstreaming the WPS agenda is still a work in progress that needs to be done.
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