The Political Economy of Violence Against Women

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DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199755929.001.0001
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Violence against women is a major problem in all countries, affecting women in every socio-economic group and at every life stage. Nowhere in the world do women share equal social and economic rights with men or the same access as men to productive resources. Economic globalization and development are creating new challenges for women's rights as well as some new opportunities for advancing women's economic independence and gender equality. Yet, when women have access to productive resources and they enjoy social and economic rights they are less vulnerable to violence across all societies. The Political Economy of Violence against Women develops a feminist political economy approach to identify the linkages between different forms of violence against women and macro structural processes in strategic local and global sites - from the household to the transnational level. In doing so, it seeks to account for the globally increasing scale and brutality of violence against women. These sites include economic restructuring and men's reaction to the loss of secure employment, the abusive exploitation associated with the transnational migration of women workers, the growth of a sex trade around the creation of free trade zones, the spike in violence against women in financial liberalization and crises, the scourge of sexual violence in armed conflict and post-crisis peacebuilding or reconstruction efforts and the deleterious gendered impacts of natural disasters. Examples are drawn from South Africa, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, China, Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, the Pacific Islands, Argentina, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Haiti, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, New Zealand, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States and Iceland.
Jacqui True
What has poverty or wealth got to do with persistent and egregious violence against women
globally? Violence against women includes rape and sexual abuse, forced trafficking, intimate
partner violence, female genital mutilation, maternal death, femicide, dowry deaths, honour
killings, female infanticide, sexual harassment and forced and early marriage. As one women’s
international NGO has stated ‘when one thinks of women’s human rights issues, one usually
thinks about violence against women and not about poverty, housing, unemployment, education,
water, food security, trade and other related economic and social rights issues’.
But is there a
relationship between women’s poor access to productive resources such as land, property,
income, employment, technology, credit, and education, and their likelihood of experiencing
gender-based violence and abuse?
This article examines this important question.
Nowhere in the world do women share equal social and economic rights with men or the
same access as men to these productive resources.
Economic globalisation and development are
creating new challenges for women's rights as well as some new opportunities for advancing
women’s economic independence and equality. The proliferation of armed conflicts, often caused
by struggles to control power and productive resources, has also hampered efforts to protect and
prevent violence against women. Furthermore, post-conflict and post humanitarian crisis and
natural disaster processes have tended to deepen gender inequalities in economic and political
participation, affecting women’s vulnerability to violence. Yet despite these realities, the current
Dr Jacqui True is a senior lecturer in International Relations at the University of Auckland. Address: Private Bag 92019,
Auckland, New Zealand 1010. The author would like to thank the editors of this issue and two
referees for their rigorous, thorough and extremely constructive comments which greatly helped in the revision of this
Programme on Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (PWSCR) Concept paper see at 4 March
The Committee on the Elimination of Violence Against Women describes violence against women or gender-based
violence as that ‘directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately’ CEDAW
General Recommendation No. 19, 11
session, 1992. Women are often subject to violence as a result of their gender
subordination, that is the construction of women as inferior to men within and across societies and multiple intersecting
vulnerabilities between gender and their membership in ethnic, nationality, class, and other marginalised groups.
Apodaca Clair ‘Measuring Women’s Economic and Social Rights Achievement’ (1998) 20(1) Human Rights Quarterly 151.
global political economic order is often neglected in analyses of violence against women. Official
United Nations approaches make no linkages between the effects of financial crises,
macroeconomic policies and trade liberalisation for example, and the prevalence of violence
against women. UN Security Council Resolutions on women, peace and security single out sexual
violence in conflict and post-conflict settings from ongoing forms of violence against women
before, during and after conflict. Moreover, they do not contextualise this violence within the
gendered structures of economic impoverishment and lack of opportunity that are not addressed
by political settlements or by peacekeeping missions. Not dissimilarly, in emergent feminist
security studies within the field of International Relations, the primary focus on sexual violence in
war and armed conflict and trafficking across borders, while seemingly appropriate given the IR
field’s subject matter, risks perpetuating the invisibility of violence against women in peacetime
and within national borders. Lacking any thoroughgoing analysis of the gendered social, political
and economic inequalities that shape women’s vulnerability to violence in whatever setting, both
UN discourses and IR scholarship tend to reinforce gender essentialisms that view women as
inherently victims of violence — and thus, objects of protection — and men as the power
This article seeks to rectify the neglect of contemporary global political-economic
processes and their effect on the prevalence of various forms of violence against women in UN
discourses and IR scholarship. Given the short space available, however, it cannot fully
substantiate the argument that women’s physical security and freedom from violence are
inextricably linked to the material basis of relationships that govern the distribution and use of
resources, entitlements and authority within the home, the community and the transnational
realm. This is the project of my forthcoming book.
Here I can only outline the key elements of a
feminist political economy method for analysing the causes and consequences of violence against
women. The method is consistent with Ann Tickner’s feminist approach to global security, which
emphasises the continuum of war/peace given women’s experiences of violence and defines
security in broad, multidimensional terms which includes the elimination of all social hierarchies
that lead to political and economic injustice.
I argue that employing such a feminist political
economy method could significantly improve the way both international policymakers and
international relations scholars treat violence against women and respond to its global scale and
its brutality.
The article is divided into two main parts. The first part sets out the elements of a feminist
political economy method for analysing violence against women, contrasting it with existing
feminist and UN approaches. The second part sketches how this method might be employed to
analyse the effect of global processes on violence against women. It explores strategic sites where
structural political-economic forces can be seen to be heightening the conditions for, and
increasing the extent of, violence against women. These sites could each be the subject of
sustained political economy analysis in their own right. The sites include neoliberal economic
See True Jacqui The Political Economy of Violence Against Women Oxford University Press New York forthcoming 2011.
See Tickner J Ann Gender in International Relations: Feminist Perspectives on Achieving Global Security Columbia University Press
New York 1992.
restructuring and men’s reaction to the loss of secure employment, the growth of a sex trade
around the creation of free trade zones, transnational migration of women workers, sexual
violence in armed conflict, and the gendered impact of natural disasters and post-crisis
reconstruction efforts.
Feminist political/legal theorists, UN agencies and treaty bodies, and feminist security studies
have all sought to understand violence against women occurring in different settings; the private
home/family, the public or civil society sphere, or the war/conflict or post-conflict zone. But
each has overlooked one or more of the political-economic structures that underpin gender
inequality and women’s vulnerability to violence. After reviewing these approaches I address their
weaknesses by fleshing out three elements of a feminist political economy method that should be
central in any analysis of — and proposed solution to— violence against women: 1 The gender
division of labour within the family/private sphere; 2 the contemporary global, macro-economy
in which capitalist competition fuels the quest for cheap sources of labour, often women’s labour,
and for deregulated investment conditions; 3 the masculine protector and feminine-protected
identities associated with war and militarism, and division of war front/home front associated
with armed conflict and its aftermath.
2.1 Feminist Political and Legal Theory
Feminist political and legal theorists have illuminated how public-private gender divisions of
labour and unequal power relations in marriage and the family affect women’s autonomy and
ability to claim human rights. In turn, they have shown how women’s subordination in the
family/private sphere shapes labour markets in ways that disadvantage and discriminate against
women in education and employment, and reinforce their subordination in the public, political
sphere. But feminist political and legal theory does not typically extend to an analysis of how
women’s economic and social subordination, and not merely men’s aggression in the private
sphere, makes them especially vulnerable to violence at home, at work or elsewhere. For instance,
in Kenya where women own less than one per cent of the land while performing 70 per cent of
the agricultural labour, ‘the denial of equal property rights has the effect of putting [them] at
greater risk of poverty, disease, violence, and homelessness’.
Studies in Kerala and West Bengal
India reveal that women with property are two times less likely to be beaten or abused. Women’s
ownership of land serves as a deterrent against domestic violence.
Deller Ross Susan et al Women's Land and Property Rights in Kenya presented at the International Women's Human Rights
Clinic Georgetown University Law Center and Federation of Women Lawyers, Kenya 2008 p 41.
Agarwal Bina and Panda Pradeep ‘Toward Freedom from Domestic Violence’ (2007) 8 Journal of Human Development 359.
Feminist political and legal theory provided the gender perspective for the women’s human
rights movement and for making visible violence against women in the private sphere. But while
this had led to some impressive successes for the women’s movement, it had also tended to
detach violence against women from the broader struggle for social and economic equality within
the social and human rights movements, leading to its perception a women-only problem rather
than a systemic problem affecting all individuals and groups.
2.2 Securitising Gender in the United Nations
The UN Secretary-General’s 2006 in-depth study notes the lack of a comprehensive and
integrated approach to violence against women,
but this is a symptom of the UN’s own
approach to eliminating violence against women as well as that of its member states. For its part
the UN Security Council (UNSC) has recognised sexual and gender-based violence as an
international security issue and among the worst forms of violence in current wars and civil
conflicts. In Resolutions 1325, 1820 and 1889, the UNSC has linked the scourge of sexual
violence to international insecurity and stressed that it needs to be addressed in all conflict
situations. In the most recent Resolution 1889, the UNSC has elevated ending sexual violence in
conflict above other forms of violence against women and all other issues and objectives relating
to women and gender equality in peace and security, including the importance of women’s
participation in conflict-resolution and peacebuilding. But as feminist critics have argued, placing
women’s rights and participation on the international security agenda has had its drawbacks: The
UNSC has tended to treat women as victims inherently vulnerable to violence and in need of
(masculine) protectors, be they men or UN peacekeepers. Further, women’s rights have also been
framed as instrumental means to the ends of security, peace and democracy and gender equality
or justice are not viewed as aspirations in their own right.
In the international security approach the political-economic dimensions of sexual violence
against women are obscured. We do not ask why or for what purpose women are raped,
how the purpose may be related to the roots of the conflict. Moreover, most security approaches
do not consider how sexual, often gender-based, violence might be prevented in the long term,
although Resolution 1889 encourages member states to address the socio-economic needs of
women. Most often the linkage between political economy and violence against women is made
in terms of the (under-researched) impact of sexual violence on the post-conflict reconstruction
since it may affect food production and supply given women’s role as agricultural producers. Or
the linkage is made with reference to the importance of securing women’s economic and social
rights in peacebuilding.
But the causes of conflict, and of gender-based violence and women’s
PWSCR Concept Paper 2 above note 1.
Hudson Natalie Florea ‘Securitizing Women’s Rights and Gender Equality’ (2009) 8 Journal of Human Rights 53.
For an exception to this generalisation see Baaz Maria Eriksson and Stern Maria ‘Why do Soldiers Rape: Masculinity,
Violence and Sexuality in the Armed Forces in the Congo (DRC)’ (2009) 53(2) International Studies Quarterly 469.
UN News Centre ‘Women Must Play Full Part in Peace-Building, Security Council Declares’ see at 5 October 2009.
insecurity, are not discussed or connected to structural inequalities in local household and global
political economies that persist and may be exacerbated after conflict. In UN discourse, then,
women survivors of sexual violence (but not of domestic violence or the violence of poverty) are
treated as the passive victims of (bad) men’s violence requiring special protection from the
international community (read; good men).
2.3 Feminist Security Studies
Feminist security studies of gender insecurity and sexual violence in armed conflict and post-
conflict settings similarly have largely failed to analyse the structures of political economy that
shape and perpetuate gender-based violence and insecurity. Indeed, recent scholarship on gender
and security takes as given mainstream accounts of international security, largely evacuating the
political economy dimension of conflict and of feminist analysis.
Investigating gender relations
in war allows feminist scholars to converse on the same terrain as IR scholars. However, singling
out gender and military security issues may effectively silence other security issues for women,
including violence against women in civilian life, in post-conflict and/or development settings.
Such a conceptualisation runs contrary to Tickner’s feminist perspective on global security, drawn
from women’s experiences of direct violence and structural violence in peacetime and war.
This argument is not to diminish the struggle and hard won achievement of having sexual
and gender-based violence considered as security issues requiring an international security
response. Rather, it claims that the ‘securitisation’ of gender and sexual violence has tended to
remove the systemic feminist analysis that could address its root causes. For instance, feminist
international political economy (IPE) has made it possible for us to reconsider informal economic
activity, feminised economies such as the sex and domestic workers trade, and unpaid work in the
home as comprising major parts of the globalisation story.
But such an IPE approach is typically
a challenge to international security approaches that downplay the role of economic power and
non-state actors. Feminist security studies do not integrate these insights of feminist political
economy in analysing gendered conflicts and insecurities and have done little to illuminate the
economic dimension of war/peace and how the struggle over control of resources in the
household and among groups significantly shapes this violence and its consequences. But nor
does feminist IPE usually extend its analysis to the causes and effects of international conflict and
See eg Sjoberg Laura (ed) Gender and International Security Routledge New York 2009 and Laura Shepherd’s ‘Power and
Authority in the Production of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325’ (2008) 52(2) International Studies Quarterly
383 regarding the neoliberal framing of UNSC Resolution 1325 as an exception, although the political economy analysis is
deployed mainly as discursive critique.
This conceptualisation of gender and security is contrary to Tickner’s earliest formulation of a feminist perspective on
international security, based on women’s experiences of direct violence and structural violence in peacetime and war. See
Tickner above note 5.
As above.
See Marchand Marianne H and Runyan Anne S Gender and Global Restructuring Routledge New York 2000; Prugl Elisabeth
The Global Construction of Gender Columbia University Press New York 1999; Peterson V Spike A Critical Rewriting of Global
Political Economy Routledge New York 2003.
Violence against women becomes rather, epiphenomenal, derivative of another more
major social process at work such as war or capitalism, albeit one given increasing public
attention and media coverage. Feminist IR is thus inadvertently implicated in the reification of the
mainstream ontological divide within International Relations between (state-centric) International
Security and (interdisciplinary) IPE. To the extent that it obscures the structural dimensions of
gender inequality in or outside of war/conflict by failing to investigate them, feminist security
studies is open to the criticism that it reifies the very gendered identities and stereotypes that it
seeks to expose and overcome.
2.4 A Feminist Political Economy Method
A feminist political economy method is a necessary corrective to feminist political/legal theory,
UN approaches to gender-based violence and feminist security studies that do not fully
comprehend the global political economic structures that both condition and heighten women’s
vulnerability to violence. In general, political economy as a method analyses political and
economic power as part of the same authority structure. All forms of power — including the use
of violence — are understood as having a material basis, and often founded on material relations
of inequality. The method directs us to investigate the interconnections between the economic,
social and political realms. Such investigations reveal that power operates not only through direct
coercion but also through the structured relations of production and reproduction that govern
the distribution and use of resources, benefits, privileges and authority within the home and
transnational society at large.
Political economic processes interact with and re-configure the
institutional and ideological formations of society where gender identities and relations are
shaped. As Bina Agarwal states:
Those who own and/or control wealth-generating property can directly or indirectly control
the principal institutions that shape ideology, such as educational and religious
establishments and the media…. These can shape views in either gender-progressive or
gender-retrogressive directions.
Feminist political economy highlights the masculine nature of the integrated political-economic
authority structure. The three elements of a feminist political economy method summarised
above can be employed to analyse the material situation of women and men particularly with
respect to their unequal access to productive resources, toward a more comprehensive
explanation of the prevalence of different forms of violence against women in wide-ranging
global contexts.
The first element is the gendered public-private sphere division of labour, which is
supported by gender ideologies that hold women primarily responsible for unremunerated, and
For important exceptions see Enloe Cynthia Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s Lives University of
California Press Berkeley 2004; Peterson V Spike ‘“New Wars” And Gendered Economies’ (2008) 88(1) Feminist Review 7.
See eg the feminist political economy analysis that links direct and structural violence in a globalisation context in Whyte
David ‘Naked Labour: Putting Agamben to Work’ (2009) 31 Australian Feminist Law Journal 57–76.
Agarwal Bina ‘Gender and Command Over Property’ (1994) 22(10) World Development 1459.
often invisible unpaid work in the family or ‘private’ sphere. Caring professions in the ‘public’
labour market akin to the unpaid care work women traditionally do in the home are devalued as a
result of this gender structure.
The internationalisation of reproductive work has extended this
division of labour to the transnational realm as women from poorer, developing countries
migrate to provide care services for families in wealthier countries. In a mutually constitutive way,
the strict division of roles in the domestic sphere constrains women’s public participation and
their access to economic opportunities in the market, in turn creating inequalities in household
bargaining power between men and women and entrapping women into potentially violent
environments at home and at work. Some women, especially those in developed countries, avoid
patriarchal, and potentially violent, situations in the family/private sphere by contracting out care
work to poor women, including migrant women from the global South.
The second element highlighted by a feminist political economy method is the
contemporary global, macroeconomic environment. Capitalist competition encourages firms to
seek cheap sources of labour and deregulated investment conditions that maximise profits locally
and transnationally. In this context, the relocation of industries has disrupted local economies and
dramatically changed labour markets, increasing a poorly regulated economy of low pay and
insecure jobs, and attracting women from developed and developing societies into wage
employment on a scale unseen before.
While the neoliberal policy environment has led to the expansion of women’s employment,
it has also led to the intensification of their work-load in the market and at home, and to the
‘feminisation of poverty’ especially among unskilled and marginalised poor women in developing
countries who lack access to productive resources or public services. Such poverty,
marginalisation and lack of protective mechanisms make women easy targets for abuse and
undermine the prospects for their empowerment.
These conditions also disempower many men
who may react to the loss of employment and economic opportunities by reasserting their power
over women through violence.
The third element of a feminist political economy method relates to the gendered
dimensions of war and peace, which are intimately connected to both private patriarchy and the
differential gender impacts of economic globalisation. Violent conflict, which often results from
struggles to control power and productive resources, normalises violence and spreads it
throughout the societies involved. State and group-sanctioned violence frequently celebrate
masculine aggression and perpetuate impunity with regard to men’s violence against women,
viewing this violence, inter alia, as the ‘spoils of war’.
A feminist political economy approach implies that stability without justice is not possible.
The prioritisation of national security and electoral machinery by governments over the social and
economic security of citizens in many post-conflict situations is usually destabilising in the long
run. Insofar as women are unable to gain access to physical security, social services, justice and
economic opportunities, their particular vulnerability to violence continues in peace time. The
Okin Susan M Justice, Gender and the Family Basic Books New York 1989.
Elson Diane ‘Gender Justice, Human Rights, and Neo-liberal Economic Policies’ in Molyneux Maxine and Razavi Shara
(eds) Gender, Justice, Development and Rights Oxford University Press New York p 78.
remainder of this article illustrates broadly how such a feminist political economy method might
be used to analyse violence against women in range of contexts, including those conflict and post-
conflict settings conventionally examined by international relations and law scholars.
Structural adjustment policies imposed by governments and international institutions have
disproportionately affected women and ‘have led to increased impoverishment, displacement and
internal strife resulting from the political instabilities caused by devaluing national currencies,
increasing debt and dependence on foreign investment’.
Women’s labour has become part of
the competitive dynamic of globalisation in part as a survival strategy in families and countries.
Yet, a large number of women workers in the informal economy, care sector and in unpaid work
often fall outside recognised labour or human rights standards. These women largely from the
global South, are highly vulnerable to new forms of gender-based violence associated with the
displacement of populations, sex trafficking, home-based production, restrictive immigration and
exploitation of local and migrant workers especially around special economic zones and large
Conflict, war and natural disaster have further impoverished societies as they make trade-
offs between military spending and spending for social and economic development, creating
conditions for severe violence against women.
Post-conflict peacebuilding may involve
privatisation of public services and infrastructure that places greater burden on women’s unpaid
labour in the household,
as well as the establishment of political and legal systems with limited
or no significant participation by women. Moreover, post-conflict and disaster reconstruction
processes often maintain the culture of impunity toward violence against women and introduce
new forms of gender discrimination in economic and political institutions that fuel violence
against women and girls. The vignettes below flesh out these dynamics further. They illustrate
with specific examples rather than comprehensive analysis how global political-economic
processes are linked to patterns of violence against women.
UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women
E/CN.4/2000/68 29 February 2000 para 59 on trafficking in women, women's migration and violence against women.
Balakrishnan Radhika Why MES with human rights? Marymount Manhattan College Manhattan 2004 p 34.
Seguino Stephanie ‘The Road to Gender Equality’ in Berik Gunseli, Rodgers Yana van der Meulen and Zammit Ann (eds)
Social Justice and Gender Equality: Rethinking Development Strategies and Economic Policies Routledge New York 2008 p 44.
3.1 Competitive Globalisation
Due to the impact of global economic restructuring in South Africa some men have
experienced long term unemployment and the loss of their previous breadwinner status.
These men admit to feelings of powerlessness and to using violence against their women
partners to regain a sense of control.
One of the ways globalisation processes perpetuate violence against women is through men’s
reactions to these processes and the loss of male entitlement they often bring about. As
mentioned above, firms in competitive, global markets may prefer to hire women over men
where their labour is deemed ‘cheaper’ due to prevailing gender structures and ideologies. Thus,
where neoliberal reforms open economies to global competition there may be increased
opportunities for women to enter the labour market and gain economic independence. The
obverse of women’s economic empowerment is men’s economic disempowerment. Thus,
violence against women may actually rise as women assume non-traditional roles and gain greater
access to these economic opportunities and resources; contradicting the association between
women’s employment and empowerment in indicators like the gender development index.
violence against intimate women partners may increase especially when the male partner is
unemployed, and/or feels his power is undermined in the household.
As the epigraph attests, men have been socially-constructed to be breadwinners, assuming
control over income and resources as well as women, and these masculine breadwinner identities
are threatened by women’s newly valued economic roles. In the context of neoliberal
restructuring and economic crises, men may be unable to find alternative employment that fulfils
their visions of themselves as family breadwinners. This may lead them to act out violently against
women and children in the home and in public spaces compensating for the loss of economic
control. Research evidence also shows that a reduction in male incomes challenges norms of
masculinity and exacerbates tensions between men and women.
In Latin America and the
Caribbean, the severely inequitable distribution of wealth is considered to be one of the chief
factors fuelling a rise in the rates of domestic violence, among the highest rates in the world.
Yet, because conventional economic and legal analysis do not consider power dynamics in the
household, unlike feminist political economy, ‘the relationship between high returns to business,
and poverty and violence [against women] at the household level remains invisible’.
Jewkes Rachel ‘Intimate Partner Violence: Causes and Prevention’ (2002) 359 The Lancet 1423; Heise Lori and Garcia-
Moreno Claudia ‘Violence by Intimate Partners’ in World Report on Violence and Health World Health Organization Geneva
2002 p 99.
UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre ‘Domestic Violence against Women and Girls’ (June 2000) 6 Innocenti Digest.
The economic success of married women was sometimes accompanied by an increase in intra-family violence. See Chant
Sylvia ‘Men in crisis? Reflections on masculinities, work and family in Northwest Costa Rica’ in Jackson Cecile (ed) Men at
Work Frank Cass London 2001; Schuler Sidney Ruth, Hashemi Syed M and Badal Shamsul Huda ‘Men’s Violence against
Women in Bangladesh: Undermined or Exacerbated by Microcredit Programmes?’ (1998) 8(2) Development in Practice 148.
Larrain Soledad ‘Curbing Domestic Violence: Two decades of action’ in Morrison Andrew and Loreto Biehl Maria (eds)
Too Close to Home: Domestic Violence in the Americas Inter American Development Bank Washington DC 1999.
Sweetman Caroline ‘Feminist Economics: From Power to Poverty’ background paper, contributing to the development of
Green Duncan From Poverty to Power Oxfam International Oxford 2008.
In South Africa where there is a history of state-sponsored violence and the contemporary
context is marked by poverty, unemployment, crime and deprivation, several forms of violence
against women are prevalent. Rape, in particular, has been found to be pervasive. In one
epidemiological study, it has been argued that rape plays a crucial role in male peer group
positioning and that it must be understood within the context of the limited number of other
recreational opportunities available to poor, township and rural youth. ‘Competition over women
has achieved overwhelming importance because it is one of the few available and affordable
opportunities for entertainment and arenas where success may be achieved and self-esteem
Given the context of poverty, relationships and the input of resources they require may
not be realistic options, whereas rape and violence may be more readily deployed to achieve the
same goals.
Another South African study of fifteen men and their female partners, recruited via two
agencies that provide programs for victims and perpetrators of intimate violence, connected
men’s economic disempowerment to domestic violence against women.
The study found that
men react to the greater economic opportunities for women and rising male unemployment by
attempting to maintain their hold on dominant forms of masculinity through the perpetration of
violence. Interviews with men revealed that their ideas of ‘successful masculinity’ were linked to
their ability to become or remain economic providers for the family. Men facing chronic
unemployment described feeling powerless and employed this feeling as a justification for
violence against women.
In a different context, Kuwait; men reacted against economic restructuring by acting out
violently against women. These men draw on traditional patriarchal discourses and objectify
women as symbols of liberalisation.
Tetreault argued that ‘women are implicated…not only
because they are themselves objects of value and symbols of communal identity, but also because
their emancipation introduces a new class of competitors for political and economic positions’.
In the struggle between tradition and economic liberalisation women are subject to men’s
violence in their quest to maintain their dominant masculine identity and place.
3.2 Free Trade Zones of Gender Violence
In the Mexican border town, Ciudad Juarez, 377 women have been murdered in just over a
decade, many of them young women who migrated to work in the Maquila factories. The
murders, one third of which involved sexual violence, are said to have different motives
from domestic violence to drug trafficking but several analysts see femicides as the outcome
Jewkes Rachel and Abrahams Naeema ‘The epidemiology of rape and sexual coercion in South Africa: an overview’
(2002) 55 Social Science & Medicine 1231.
Boonzaier Floretta ‘Woman Abuse in South Africa: A Brief Contextual Analysis’ (2005) 15 Feminism and Psychology 99.
As above at 100.
Tetrault Mary Ann ‘Kuwait: Sex, Violence and the Politics of Economic Restructuring’ in Doumato Eleanor Abdella and
Posusney Marsha Pripstein (eds) Women and globalization in the Arab Middle East Lynne Rienner Publishers Boulder 2003 p
As above at 236.
of men’s reactions to globalization and the feminization of employment in the border
Trade liberalisation has facilitated the globalisation of export-oriented, labour-intensive industries.
The creation of free trade zones exacerbates gendered inequalities and creates deregulated
environments in which violence against women thrives. These industries, set up in ‘free trade’ or
special economic zones exempt from many government regulations, have largely employed
women’s labour; often young, migrant women from rural areas hired on temporary contract at
lower wages than men and with minimal benefits. Violence against women workers, including
abuse of reproductive rights (e.g. through mandatory pregnancy screening), sexual harassment,
rape and femicide, has been highly prevalent in many of these free trade zones in developing
The epigraph concerning the femicides in Ciudad Juarez on the US-Mexico border, where
‘Maquiladora’ factories are located, illustrates the destabilising effects of neoliberal globalisation.
Thousands of young rural women came to Mexico’s tax-free border cities when the 1992
NAFTA agreement liberalised trade with the United States and the Mexican government created
these zones to attract foreign investment. They were treated as dispensable workers and
constructed as ‘cheap labour’ (relative to men), leading to high male unemployment in the border
cities and towns.
Studies show that their influx resulted in lower wages for all, which combined
with male unemployment created resentment toward young women workers. Both the
multinational firms and the states concerned failed to protect these women from targeted, violent
Alicia Camacho argued that, just as women emerged as new political and economic
agents, they lost their claim to the fundamental rights of personal security.
The femicides in Ciudad Juarez were the subject of the first inquiry under the optional
protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
(CEDAW) undertaken by the CEDAW Committee.
The report of the Committee revealed the
multiple vulnerabilities of women to violence in the border city: ‘they were young, come from
other parts of Mexico, living in poverty, working in maquilas where protection for their personal
security was poor, subject to deception and force’.
The Committee observed that the women
Camacho Alicia Schmidt ‘Ciudadana X, Gender Violence and the Denationalization of Women’s Rights in Ciudad Juarez,
Mexico’ (2005) 5 The New Centennial Review 259.
UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women Report on El Salvador E/CN.4/2005/72/Add.2 Report on Guatemala
E/CN.4/2005/72/Add.3 and Report on Mexico E/CN.4/2006/61/Add.4.
According to Amnesty International, over 370 women have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez between 1993 and 2005. See at 4 March 2010. See also Albuquerque Pedro H and
Vemala Prasad R ‘A Statistical Evaluation of Femicide Rates in Mexican Cities along the US-Mexico Border’ (October 5
2008) Canadian Law and Economics Association (CLEA) 2008 Meetings.
Livingstone Jessica ‘Murder in Juarez: Gender, Sexual Violence and the Global Assembly Line’ (2004) 25(1) Frontiers 59
at 60.
Camacho above note 35 at 259.
As above at 267.
See the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Report on Mexico
As above at para 63–64.
did not enjoy basic social and economic rights including the right to decent work, education,
health care, housing, sanitation infrastructure and lighting.
The panel recommended ensuring
compliance with the human rights provisions of CEDAW.
Some multinational export industries located in impoverished regions need to import
foreign male workers. Their presence may encourage the development of prostitution and sex
trafficking as well as gender-based violence. For example, it is argued that liberalisation of the
fisheries industry in the Pacific has encouraged the development of prostitution and sex
trafficking on shore, and gender-based violence, which has been shown to rise during an
economic recession or crisis such as the loss of markets.
A case study of Padang province in
Papua New Guinea (PNG) has linked the development of canneries by multinational firms and
the import of foreign male workers to an increase in the sex-trade, child prostitution and
HIV/AIDS. Moreover, many women working in fisheries processing plants in PNG and Fiji are
unmarried and face problems of security and harassment, especially when they either live at
cannery hostels or travel to and from their shifts in darkness.
In another example of an
extractive, multinational industry, in the Solomon Islands local government officials have accused
foreign logging companies of exploiting not only their natural forestry resources but their teenage
girls as well. Loggers from Asian countries working for multinational companies are said to
employ these girls to work as domestic live-in servants, subjecting them to sexual abuse and
leaving them pregnant when they return home.
3.3 Liberation From What? Transitions to a Market Economy
The destabilisation of economic patterns in society by macro-economic policies that facilitate a
states’ global integration is associated with growing inequalities and increasing levels of violence
against women in several regions, including Latin America, Africa and Asia.
The market
transitions in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union led to widespread increases in
poverty, unemployment, hardship, income inequality, stress and violence against women. These
factors also indirectly raised women’s vulnerability by encouraging more risk-taking behaviour,
more alcohol and drug abuse, the breakdown of social support networks, and the economic
dependence of women on their partners.
As above at para 289.
As above at para 290 and Chinkin Christine ‘The Protection of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Post-Conflict’
OHCHR Women’s Human Rights and Gender Unit 3 at
See Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Gender Issues in Tuna Fisheries: Case Studies in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Kiribati
Fishtech Consultants Suva 2008.
Pacific Network on Globalization Social Impact Assessment of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) being negotiated between
the European Community and Pacific ACP States (2008).
Radio Australia ‘Solomon official accuses foreign logging companies of exploitation’ September 19 2008.
UNICEF Americas and the Caribbean Regional Office The invisible adjustment: Poor women and economic crisis UNICEF New
York 1989; Agnihotri Indu and Mazumdar Vina ‘Changing Terms of Political Discourse’ (1995) 30(29) Economic and
Political Weekly 1869.
UNICEF ‘Women in Transition’ No 6 (1999) Regional Monitoring Report 7. See also True Jacqui Gender, Globalization and Post
socialism Columbia University Press New York 2003.
Some have viewed Eastern Europe and Central Asia as ‘test regions’ for judging the impact
of neoliberal policies. Rather than revealing positive effects of market reform, almost all the
countries in these regions have exhibited regressions in women’s economic and social status.
The biggest regression has been in Eastern Europe according to Social Watch’s 2008 Gender
Equity Index. As well as increases in rape and domestic violence, this region has seen hundreds of
thousands of young women trafficked for prostitution and other indentured labour each year due
to the loss of economic opportunities emanating from liberalisation.
Women are often the hardest hit by economic transition, financial crises and rising
unemployment. ‘Economic and political insecurity provoke private and public backlash against
women’s rights that may be expressed through violence and articulated in the form of defending
cultures and traditions’.
Widespread discrimination against girls and women in education,
employment and business, and the lack of a state social safety net can mean they are not
protected from violence when economies rapidly expand and contract. Export-oriented
development in East Asia has had a detrimental impact on women and girls due to patriarchal
family-firm structures and the lesser value attributed to women’s paid and unpaid labour. There is
considerable evidence that economic growth in East Asian countries such as Korea, Taiwan,
China and Hong Kong was accelerated by increasing women’s employment, while at the same
time widening gender wage gaps in the labour market.
When the Asian Financial Crisis hit in 1997-1998, the impact on women and girls in the
region was disproportionate as early indications of the impact of the 2008 financial crisis also
suggest. Girls were removed from school to help at home or they were forced to seek work in the
sex sector to support household incomes as a result of cutbacks in public service jobs and
In some East Asian countries women’s paid labour intensified while in others, notably
South Korea, their labour participation shrunk. The resulting increased financial burdens strained
intra-household relationships, boosted suicides, family violence and abandonment.
3.4 Crossing Borders: Exploitation of Migrant Women Workers
All over the world, but especially in labour receiving countries, women domestic workers are
abused and exploited. They work in the home where violence among family members is still
acceptable or at least beyond the purview of national and international law.
See UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women Report on the Russian Federation E/CN.4/2006/61/Add.2, Report on
Moldova A/HRC/11/6/Add.4 and Report on Tajikstan A/HRC/11/6/Add.2.
‘Montreal Principles on Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ (August 2004) 26(3) Human Rights Quarterly 760.
Gupta Nabanita Datta ‘Gender, pay and development’ (2002) 3(2) Labour and Management in Development Journal 1; Berik
Gunseli ‘Mature export-led growth and gender wage inequality in Taiwan’ (2004) 6(3) Feminist Economics 1.
Truong Thanh-Dam ‘A Feminist Perspective on the Asian Miracle and Crisis’ (2001) 1(1) Journal of Human Development 159;
Young Brigitte ‘Financial Crises and Social Reproduction’ in Bakker Isabella and Gill Stephen (eds) Power, Production and
Social Reproduction: Human In/Security in the Global Political Economy Palgrave Macmillan New York 2004 p 103.
Floro Mario and Dymski Gary ‘Financial Crisis, Gender, and Power’ (2000) 28(7) World Development 1369.
See Piper Nicola ‘Feminization of Labor Migration as Violence against Women’ (2003) 9(6) Violence against Women 724.
The expansion of women’s labour market participation in developed countries and the reduction
of state welfare provisions have fuelled a growing demand for workers in the growing service
sector. The employment of foreign-born women has partially met this demand extending across
an increasingly broad range of economic sectors, from prostitution and sex work, to domestic
service, child and aged-care, and including highly regulated occupations such as nursing.
Neoliberal structural reforms have created debt, unemployment, reduced social services and
increased poverty especially in developing countries, requiring more women from those countries
to become income-earners for their families. Migration has been one option for women to
receive an income and provide economic security for their families. Women are often chosen by
their families to migrate based on the expectation that they will sacrifice themselves to a greater
degree than men for the welfare of their families — i.e., work harder, remit a higher proportion
of their earnings, spend less on themselves, and endure worse living conditions.
In 2005 women
were nearly half of all economic migrants (95 out of 191 million) and they dominate in migration
streams to developed countries. Remittances from international migration in 2005 totaled US$251
billion and have had a significant effect on diminishing poverty in developing countries,
although these remittances have been falling since the onset of the financial crisis with
households cutting back on services.
Vulnerability to violence is frequently part of the employment relationship for migrant
women workers due to the unequal power relations at work based on the combined oppressions
of gender, class, nationality and ethnicity.
Migrant women usually work in poor conditions with
low social status, live in degrading housing situations, and lack basic legal protections and
opportunities for redress. Domestic workers, for instance, are typically excluded from standard
labour practices such as minimum wage, regular payment of wages, a weekly day off and paid
leave. Employers evade domestic labour laws and governments rarely monitor their observance in
the domestic sphere.
Labour-sending countries for their part have an economic incentive to
ignore their breach as they benefit from the high levels of remittances and may not wish to
jeopardise their relations with relevant host countries.
Structural inequalities in global trade regimes allow freedom of movement for firms,
investors and professional workers typically from developed countries but limit the movement of
low-skilled workers usually from developing countries. Very few countries have ratified the
international conventions that extend citizenship and labour rights to migrant workers. Just
twenty-three per cent of states have ratified the 1949 ILO Convention on Migration for
Employment, only ten per cent have ratified the 1975 ILO Convention Concerning Migration in
Abusive Conditions and the Promotion of Equality of Opportunity and the Treatment of Migrant
UN INSTRAW Gender, Remittances and Development: The Feminization of Migration: Working Paper UN INSTRAW Dominican
Republic 2008. See also Kofman Eleonore and Raghuram Parvati The Implications of Migration for Gender and Care Regimes in
the South UNRISD Stockholm 2008.
United Nations Population Fund The State of the World’s Population: The Good, The Bad, The Promising: Migration in the 21st
Century UNFPA New York 2006 p 62.
Piper above note 55 at 724.
Varia Nisha ‘Globalization Comes Home: Protecting Migrant Domestic Workers' Rights’ in Human Rights Watch World
Report 2007 Human Rights Watch New York p 1.
Workers, and a mere seventeen per cent of states have signed the 1990 International Convention
on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
are clear linkages between violence against migrant women workers and the failure of states to
protect these women workers by monitoring minimum labour standards and ensuring access to
adequate housing, education, and alternative employment opportunities.
Migrant women working in the sex sector as well as those trafficked for prostitution face
extreme vulnerabilities. Trafficking is the underside of migration and inseparable from processes
of globalisation and trade liberalisation.
Yet it is more often addressed as a state security and
immigration issue or even a problem of violence against women (as in the 1995 Beijing Platform
for Action) but not as an economic issue, relating to the loss of economic opportunities brought
about by state and global restructuring. The trade in human beings is part of the globalisation of
trade in goods, investment, production and services, and needs to be part of trade policy
discussions at the World Trade Organization.
This recognition would make it clear that all trade
occurs in an institutional and moral context and that trade policy as a result must be held
accountable for its social as well as its economic impacts.
Increasing rates of trafficking are linked with women’s low socio-economic status, gender
discrimination in education, employment and business and women’s relative lack of economic
opportunities in specific contexts of neoliberal globalisation. The majority of trafficked women
have made a decision to migrate in search of better economic opportunities, not to be abducted,
kidnapped, or to work in indentured labour conditions.
State policies that treat trafficked
women as criminals or mere victims in need of rescue and rehabilitation fail to take account of
their economic agency and their basic human rights in the prevention, protection and prosecution
of trafficking.
States often seek to control women and police their bodies rather than empower
Indeed, some argue that it is not migration for sex work that should be abolished, but
rather the power relations between trafficked women and traffickers which involve physical,
psychological and economic violence against women. When slavery was abolished, for instance, it
was the power relationship that was abolished, not work in the cotton fields or in domestic
United Nations International Migration and Development: Report of the Secretary-General A/60/871 2006.
See the recommendations and best practice measures undertaken by states to address violence against migrant women
workers in 2007: United Nations Violence against women migrant workers: Report of the Secretary-General, Sixty-Second Session
A/62/177 2007.
Truong Thanh-Dam ‘Organized Crime and Human Trafficking’ in Veriano E, Magallenes J and Bridel L (eds)
Transnational Organized Crime Carolina Academic Press North Carolina 2003 p 53.
Truong above note 53.
For a political economy analysis that extends feminist debates on prostitution to global politics. See Jeffreys Sheila The
Industrial Vagina: The Political Economy of the Global Sex Trade Routledge New York 2008.
See Agustin Laura Sex at the Margins Zed Books London 2008.
Sullivan Barbara ‘Trafficking in Women: Feminism and New International Law’ (2003) 5(1) International Feminist Journal of
Politics 67.
Lansink Annette ‘Human rights focus on trafficked women: An international law and feminist perspective’ (2006) 70
Agenda 8 see at 4 March 2010.
Globalisation introduces new vulnerabilities to violence, as well as offering potential for
empowerment through labour migration. But neoliberal government policies that fail to attend to
the basic social and economic entitlements of individuals and families make violence against
women a more likely outcome than empowerment.
Restrictive immigration policies focused on
national security and a narrow construction of economic interests lead to greater economic
exploitation, physical abuse and violence against migrant women workers.
Research evidence
shows that where countries have male biased immigration laws, women migrants are more
vulnerable to violence. Prostitutes and domestic workers require not just cultural ‘recognition’ to
redress their experiences of violence but material ‘redistribution.’
Rather than restricting
women’s and girls’ right to migrate and seek work, ‘the real challenge lies in creating the
guarantees for them to do so safely and with dignity’.
3.5 Gendered Violence in Armed Conflict
In the Ugandan civil war, women were reportedly raped in order to extract resources from
them, and also to take away the agricultural labour force of the community. Because women
do the majority of agricultural work in that country, soldiers attempted to stop women from
being able to work, effectively cutting the food supply of the ‘enemy’.
It is by now well-documented that sexual and physical violence against women increases as a
direct result of armed conflict. The large scale rape of women, for example, has been a military
strategy in countless historical and recent conflicts.
The causes of armed conflict are often
linked with attempts to control economic resources such as oil, metal, diamonds, drugs or
contested territorial boundaries.
Violence against women may be one way to achieve this control
and extraction of resources as the Ugandan epigraph highlights.
Risk of violence is particularly acute for refugee and internally displaced women and girls
(IDPs) in conflict situations. Women in refugee and IDP camps lack privacy and may be forced
to live in the same quarters or in close proximity to male strangers, which decreases their security.
Studies show a high level of sexual violence in and around these camps. Moreover, once the
conflict has ended, women who are repatriated often no longer have houses or land to return to.
This is due to a number of reasons, including destruction, their forced relocation to a different
part of the country, discriminatory inheritance laws, lack of proper property titles, and secondary
See UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women above note 22.
Varia above note 59.
As above at 10. See also Ramírez Carlota, Domínguez Mar García and Morais Julia Míguez Crossing Borders: Gender,
Remittances and Development UN INSTRAW Santo Domingo 2005.
Turshen Meredith ‘The political economy of violence against women during armed conflict in Uganda’ (Fall 2000) 67(3)
Social Research 803.
See Kelly L ‘Wars against Women’ in Jacobs Susie M, Jacobson Ruth and Marchbank Jen (eds) States of Conflict: Gender,
Violence and Resistance Zed Books London 2000 p 45.
El Jack Amani Bridge Development — Gender: Gender and Armed Conflict Overview Report Institute of Development Studies
University of Sussex Brighton 2003 p 8.
In some cases the soldiers accomplished this goal further by amputating limbs. See Human Rights Watch cited in Turshen
‘The political economy of violence’ (2000) above note 71.
occupants. Forced marriages by military commanders in order to obtain homes or land inherited
by women are reportedly common in Afghanistan.
Poor rural women, IDPs and refugee women, and women living in conflict zones are at
risk of violence in their efforts to provide food for themselves and their families.
Many women
are raped and abused while seeking basic necessities such as water, food and firewood for
cooking. This violence is perpetrated by local civilians, gangs, soldiers and other armed groups. In
Sudan, rapes and other forms of sexual abuse have been frequently reported when displaced
women and girls leave camp areas to gather firewood.
Lack of access to income sources has
forced displaced women to collect firewood in the Kieni forest of Kenya, where they are reported
to be subjected to abuse, including sexual abuse and severe beatings. ‘Sexual violence against
displaced women collecting fuel has become so common that camp workers in Darfur have
abbreviated the phenomenon to “firewood rape”.’
During displacement, women are often forced to ‘pay’ for food with sex: ‘Demands for
sexual services sometimes constitute an informal ‘currency’ in which bribes are paid. Examples
range from rape and assault by service providers to sexual harassment and psychological abuse’.
In Liberia, displaced women have been forced to exchange sex for aid, including food from
national and international peace workers, according to a report by Save the Children.’
displaced women are vulnerable to violence as a result of their economic resources being stripped
from them during the displacement and their lack of access to economic resources afterward.
They remain economically disadvantaged decades after the displacement. There are reports as
well that displaced women fleeing their homes or living in IDP camps have sometimes been
forced into prostitution in order to survive or have fallen prey to traffickers.
3.6 Gender Violence in Post-Crisis Reconstruction
In the 2004 tsunami many more women than men died in both Sri Lanka and India,
resulting in an unbalanced current sex ratio. But the post-disaster reconstruction effort by
international NGOs only compounded this gender discrimination. Compensation was
generally handed out to male members of the family who, in many cases, did not share it
Proceedings of the Asia Regional Consultation on The Interlinkages between Violence Against Women and Women’s Right to
Adequate Housing held in cooperation with the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, New Delhi India, October,
2003 p 43.
See Mooney Erin ‘The Concept of Internal Displacement and the Case for Internally Displaced Persons as a Category of
Concern’ (2005) 24(3) Refugee Survey Quarterly 9; and Onyango J Oloka ‘The Plight of the Larger Half: Human Rights,
Gender Violence and the Legal Status of Refugee and Internally Displaced Women in Africa’ (1996) 24(2) Denver Journal of
Law and Policy 349.
United Nations Development Fund for Women Progress of the World’s Women UNIFEM New York 2008 100.
As above.
As above at 44.
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre Briefing Paper see
D404D/(httpPages)/953DF04611AD1A88802570A10046397B?OpenDocument at 4 March 2010; ‘UN Faces More
Accusations of Sexual Misconduct’ Washington Post 13 March 2005 p A22.
As above.
with the women or surviving women-only households. After the disaster there was also a
large increase in documented cases of physical abuse, rape, forced and early marriage.
Women and girls displaced by conflict and by natural disasters have been subject to rape, sexual
abuse, early and forced marriage, and trafficking.
What is less known is the long term impact of
this violence against women on women and girls’ wellbeing welfare in the post-crisis phase. The
stigmatisation, and sometimes even forced displacement, of women who have been raped, for
instance, often results in their impoverishment and in further violence against them.
In the Darfur region of western Sudan, there are reports that thousands of women were
raped and tortured, and have lost their husbands and livelihoods as a result of the conflict.
These women and their families have become internally displaced persons vulnerable to ongoing
violence in camps and resettlement zones.
In both conflict and disaster situations, men may feel
themselves powerless and unable to fulfill their duty to protect their families.
As in the case of
unemployment, this can arouse men’s resentment and erupt in violence against women family
members, especially if women are the economic providers.
Indeed, women often become heads
of households during times of conflict or in the aftermath of a disaster, as men may be out
fighting, be killed, or elect to leave the affected area in order to look for work elsewhere. Women
who are left behind thus become primarily responsible for their family’s survival. Even when a
political settlement has been achieved, organised crime may perpetuate political and gender-based
Failure to address women’s social and economic needs and opportunities in post-crisis
situations contributes to their poverty, material insecurity and vulnerability to violence as a result.
Begging and prostitution, which may be resorted to as a means of redressing poverty, create
further vulnerability to violence and trafficking.
The invisibility of violence against women both
during and after the conflict/disaster is over, exacerbates gender inequalities and marginalises
women in reconstruction and state-building processes despite UN Security Council Resolution
Housing and Land Rights Network Habitat International Coalition Post-Tsunami Relief and Rehabilitation: A Violation of
Human Rights Report of a Fact-finding Mission to Tsunami Affected Areas of Tamil-Nadu, India and Sri Lanka South Asia
Regional Programme (August 8 2005) p 14.
Felten-Biermann Claudia ‘Gender and Natural Disaster: Sexualized violence and the tsunami’ (2006) 49(3) Development 82.
See El Jack Amani above note 73. Women’s economic position also suffers as a result of natural disasters, making them
more vulnerable to violence. See Ikeda Keiko ‘Gender differences in human loss and vulnerability in natural disasters’
(1995) 2(2) Indian Journal of Gender Studies 171.
See Human Rights Watch Five Years On, No Justice for Sexual Violence in Darfur Human Rights Watch New York
2008; Hampton Tracy ‘Agencies Speak out on Rape in Darfur’ (2005) 294 Journal of American Medical Associations 542.
United Nations Population Fund Dispatches from Darfur UNFPA New York 2007.
Insufficient economic opportunities for men to provide for their families and as such live up to expectations of successful
masculinity may encourage conflict in the first place. See Dolan Chris ‘Collapsing Masculinities and Weak States’ in
Cleaver Francis (ed) Masculinities Matter! Men, Gender and Development Zed Books New York 2002 p 57.
As above at 7; United Nations Population Fund The State of the World Population: Culture, Gender, and Human Rights UNFPA
New York 2008.
Chinkin above note 44; Enarson Elaine Gender and Natural Disaster Report: ICCPR Working Paper No. 1 ILO Recovery and
Reconstruction Department 2000 p 14.
1325, which recognises the right of women to participate in these processes.
This has been the
case in Timor Leste, Afghanistan and Iraq, for instance, where few women have held decision-
making positions in reconstruction or state-building agencies and efforts. Despite a UN directive
in East Timor calling for thirty per cent of all national and district hiring within every
classification/level of employment to be of women, this commitment was not realised.
In Iraq
only three out of twenty-five members of the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority were
women, there was only one woman in the interim cabinet, and not a single woman was part of
the drafting committee for the interim constitution.
The poor representation of women in political institutions is in part a consequence of the
gender inequality in economic and social resources and of women’s experiences of violence in the
public realm. However, when this gender imbalance in decision-making is sanctioned by the
international community, it reinforces local hostility toward women’s public involvement,
including on religious grounds. Most women candidates refused to campaign in public in the
lead-up to the January 2005 elections in Iraq because of fears of violence. Men feared violence
too but the violence perpetrated against women has religious support.
Some research suggests women can be empowered in post-conflict political situations by
transforming gender roles and women's place in society, as for example in Palestine and
Certainly, there are opportunities for addressing endemic problems in society and
improving the economic and social rights of citizens during the rebuilding of societies after crises,
but these opportunities often discriminate against women.
For example, in the early phases of
state-building it is common to designate mass employment opportunities for men, such as road-
building and housing construction, which typically offer quick employment to large numbers of
men. But mass employment opportunities for women that are culturally acceptable are typically
not planned or implemented. In the first years of the Afghan reconstruction, external actors had a
limited vision of women’s economic activity, such as in the form of sewing projects.
At the time of the UN transitional administration in East Timor (UNTAET) domestic
violence against women was pervasive across the whole society.
In 2000, forty per cent of all
offences committed against women were by male family members.
Yet, some argue that
international and Timorese policy makers turned their attention to establishing formal legal and
Wilson Jennifer, Phillips Brenda D and Neal David M ‘Domestic violence after disaster’ in Enarson Elaine and Morrow
Betty Hearn (eds) The Gendered Terrain of Disaster Praeger Publishers Westport CT 1998 p 115.
Although 33 per cent of UNTAET international civilian officials were women, only 11 per cent of UNTAET East
Timorese staff were women with just 4 per cent in the civilian police force and 2.4 per cent in the peacekeeping force. See
also Charlesworth Hilary ‘Worlding Women in International Law’ in D’Costa Bina and Lee Koo Katrina (eds) Gender and
Global Politics in the Asia-Pacific Palgrave Macmillan New York 2008 p 23.
As above at 26.
Holt Maria ‘Palestinian Women, Violence, and the Peace Process’ (2003) 13(2) Development in Practice 223; See also at 4 March 2010.
Benard Cheryl, Jones Seth G, Oliker Olga, Quantic-Thurston Cathryn, Stearns Brooke K and Cordell Kristin Women and
Nation-Building RAND Stanford 2008.
As above.
Hall Nina and True Jacqui ‘Gender Mainstreaming in a Post-Conflict State: Toward Democratic Peace in Timor Leste’ in
D’Costa and Lee Koo above note 91.
Charlesworth above note 91 at 22.
political institutions rather than addressing the basic economic and social needs of society, as well
as the culture of impunity and the human rights violations rampant in the private sphere.
eighty per cent unemployment rate in urban areas partly explains the high prevalence of family
violence. ‘Violence within the family became a way for men to reassert their domestic power’.
This situation in Timor is typical of other conflicts and reconstruction processes.
Patterns of violence against women from the home to the transnational realm are structurally
linked to patterns of global transformation instigated by economic, political, military and natural
environmental forces. This article has sought to highlight rather than comprehensively analyse
some strategic sites where we can see global processes such as neoliberal economic policies,
armed conflict, natural disasters and other crises, as well as reconstruction efforts, implicated in
reinforcing existing gender inequalities and created new forms of marginalisation and violence
against women
For scholars, advocates and policymakers who seek to end violence against women, the
lack of analysis of the political economic processes that shape and perpetuate gender-based
violence worldwide is deeply troubling. Employing a feminist political economy method, the
outlines of which I have suggested here, reveals the destabilisation brought about by economic
globalisation and neoliberal policies promulgated by states and international institutions and how
they exacerbate violence against women. Women’s experiences of violence and abuse are shown
to be intertwined with the feminisation of poverty, transnational labour exploitation, trade
liberalisation, limitations on their sexual and reproductive rights, and control of their mobility.
Feminist political economy analysis, although undertaken only at a general level here,
should make us sceptical that current global initiatives, such as the UN ‘UNITE’ Campaign to
end violence against women by 2015 and the UN Security Council Resolutions on women, peace
and security, will have a significant impact on eradicating violence against women. While these
international initiatives remain disconnected from the larger transnational struggle for social and
economic equality, they will most likely fail to achieve this goal.
Nancy Fraser has argued that the emancipatory promise of feminism depends on our
‘reconnecting struggles against personalised subjection to the critique of a capitalist system’.
entices feminists to ‘think big’ by bringing back and integrating feminist political economy with
cultural critique.
This article and the larger book project of which it is a part, aim to contribute
to that rejoining of critical, feminist interdisciplinary analysis to address the deep-rooted structural
Ospina S Participation of Women in Politics and Decision-Making in Timor-Leste Unpublished Report of UNIFEM Dili 2006
p 16.
As above at 23 citing Fitzsimons Tracy ‘Engendering Justice and Security After War’ in Call Charles T (ed) Constructing
Justice and Security After War US Institute for Peace Press Books Washington DC 2007 p 351 at 353.
Fraser Nancy ‘Feminism, Capitalism and the Cunning of History’ (2009) 56 New Left Review 115.
As above at 117.
causes and consequences of violence against women. If ending violence against women globally is
one of the key struggles of our age, then we should do nothing less than marshal the best
feminist-informed analysis to interpret and to transform the causes of this violence.z
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    The naming of violence in feminist political campaigns and in the context of feminist theory has rhetorical and political effects. Feminist contention about the scope and meaning of ‘Violence against Women' (VAW) and ‘Sex and Gender-Based Violence' (SGBV), and about the concepts of gender and of violence itself, are fundamentally debates about the politics of feminist contestation, and the goals, strategies and tactics of feminist organisation, campaigns and action. This article examines the propulsion since the late twentieth century of the problems of VAW and SGBV on to global and national political agendas. The feminist theory that underpins the uptake of this new agenda is contested by opponents of feminism. More significantly for the article it is also contested within feminism, in disputes about how feminist political aims should be furthered, through what institutions and with what strategic goals in view. The article aims to show that theoretical and philosophical controversy about the concepts of violence, and sex and gender, are always political, both in the sense that they are an aspect of feminist competition about how feminist politics should proceed, and in the sense that the political implications of concepts and theory must always be a significant factor in their salience for feminist action.
  • Chapter
    This chapter analyses masculinity ‘in crisis’, an idea which has shaped, and been shaped by, men’s movements. Recurring crisis-of-masculinity narratives throughout history are discussed, suggesting that ‘crisis’ is internal to masculinity. Contemporary men-in-crisis debates are also reviewed, especially regarding men and work, and male suicide. A distinction is made between ‘conservative’ and ‘progressive’ crisis narratives. Conservative narratives reassert traditional masculinity, presenting women’s equality/feminism as provoking crisis. Progressive accounts, in contrast, highlight traditional masculinity’s harmful effects for both women and men, and recommend reimagining masculinity. These perspectives are illustrated through analysis of recent (non-academic) constructions of crisis. Both narratives reinforce harmful, essentialist, binary notions of gender. The language of crisis is argued to be problematic, reifying gender and erroneously positioning men as ‘the new gender victims’.
  • Chapter
    The aim of this literature review is showing the existing studies on the topic of the identification of women victims of trafficking in human beings in the mixed migration flows. Human Trafficking is nowadays considered a serious breach of human rights and the manifestation of social injustice, and it disproportionately affects women and children worldwide. In the latest years, the global attention about the phenomenon and the anti-trafficking strategies increased. There is a wide consensus among the State that the process of identification of victims is fundamental in combating trafficking, even if it has always been considered a problematic issue due to its complexity and length. In the times of mixed migration flows, it is even more important to early and properly identify a trafficked person, but, at the same time, it has become more controversial: in large migration movements, the difficulty of identifying victims have to deal with the complexity of the composition of the flows that see different kind of migrants making the same journey together: trafficked people, minors, asylum seekers, economic migrants, etc. Therefore, the identification process results to be essential to avoid severe violation of human rights. The article also considers the broad connections between migration policies, migration routes and identification of victims. Keywords: identification of victims of human trafficking, trafficking of human beings, identification process, mixed migration flows, women's human rights.
  • Chapter
    At least since the 1970s, the idea to overcome gender hierarchies has influenced the work of international organisations (IOs). Scholars who have analysed this ‘engendering’ of IOs describe a variety of resulting organisational practices, informed by significant institutionalisation of gender equality norms as well as by their co-optation. The paper gives an overview of some of the most important global gender equality norms articulated within the United Nations (UN). It does so with a view to historical context factors, involved actors and their relative power, and competing claims and pressures. This perspective shows how diverse meanings of gender equality norms have become prominent within the UN, including relatively clear goals of social change, compromises, shifting priorities and incompatibilities leading to stalemates.
  • Chapter
    As the introduction to the edited volume, this chapter presents the wider themes and contributions of the book as well as the individual chapters. It addresses the core debate of international studies on how global norms are reproduced and changed, and presents a significant contribution in the form of a new situated approach for perceiving such processes. This approach suggests casting aside conceptualisations of norms that see these as ‘travelling’ or ‘moving’ across contexts. Instead, it underlines how the intersubjective nature of norms means that these are addressed, reproduced or changed in social interaction, and cannot be understood as existing outside such processes.
  • Article
    Resource extraction has both direct and indirect impacts on women, and research has shown that such impacts are differentiated from those on men. Violence against women appears to be a crosscutting impact. Yet states, intergovernmental organizations, multi-stakeholder initiatives, and industry groups have not taken this into consideration in the formulation of norms meant to address business- related human rights impacts. Drawing on Dorothy Smith’s work on institutional ethnography and, specifically, on feminist textuality, this article provides a close multi-level feminist analysis of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN Guiding Principles), one of the central instruments designed to address corporate impunity for harm caused by business extraction in terms of their ability to address the gendered impacts of resource extraction and, in particular, violence against women. The authors consider the extent to which women and the interests of women are reflected in the text of the UN Guiding Principles, investigate the prioritization of knowledge and the differentiated treatment in the text of women compared to states and business enterprises, and situate the UN Guiding Principles within the neo-liberal gen- dered international legal system. They argue that UN Guiding Principles are a technology that establishes the “relations of ruling” with respect to state and business behaviour and women, and that the text, structure, and nature of these norms not only fail to acknowledge women’s experiences or to protect women’s rights in the realm of resource extraction but also help to perpetuate the patriarchal and neo-liberal structures that oppress women.
  • Chapter
    As with other institutions of global governance, international law — including that regulating human security and rights — has traditionally operated according to a strict gender code. Not only has it treated men and women differently when they experience the same crimes, but it has also failed to address the different acts of violence men and women experience in times of conflict. Until very recently, it has overwhelmingly been the case that men, and male experiences, have been used as the standard for international humanitarian law. Throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium this pattern gradually started to change through the decisions of the UN ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and, more particularly, through the advent of the International Criminal Court (ICC). This chapter explores these developments. It considers the objectives, successes and limitations of transnational gender-justice activists working through the ICC, and seeks to contribute to a growing comparative literature on gender and global governance by identifying the features of the political opportunity structure that have enhanced (and curtailed) the influence of these actors in this new arena of international law. It also assesses the extent to which changes to the international gender-justice regime have been transformative in terms of opening up new ways of defining women’s experiences of war and conflict in ways which enhance their access to justice.
  • Article
    Large-scale logging began in Solomon Islands in 1963. Since then there have been two distinct regimes. The first lasted until the early 1980s and the early years of independence. It involved a small number of companies harvesting government-owned forests or government-leased forests, confined to a few isolated locations, operating under close government supervision. The second regime came about through the expansion of logging to customary land. There was a greater spread of operations, with an increased number of companies and much less central-government control. Resource owners had little real protection against foreign loggers. This paper concentrates on the second period, reviewing the history of the logging industry during this time and the extreme divisiveness it brought about in rural areas. As logging expanded there emerged a loosely organized anti-logging movement in provinces affected by logging. The movement came to represent a direct challenge to the large-scale, capital-intensive development policy followed by the postcolonial state. The movement has had some local successes against logging companies but has failed to match the power being wielded by the logging industry and failed to slow the high rate of timber extraction nationally.
  • Article
    This article examines the dominant discourse on trafficking in persons and the implementation of international and U.S. policy to address trafficking globally. Features of the United Nations Protocol and the Trafficking in Victims Protection Act demonstrate how trafficking frameworks currently in place contain underlying fears of migration and female sexuality. The implications of policy on the construction of third world women as "victims to be saved" through governments, National Government Organizations, feminists and the media will show how these misrespresentations only reinforce racism and dualistic simplifications of a complex issue. An emphasis is placed on the importance of women's agency and the possibility of multiple realities. An alternative way of thinking about human trafficking and related policy through a labor rights, migration and human rights framework is proposed.
  • Article
    Backing women's rights in developing countries isn't just good ethics; it's also sound economics. Growth and living standards get a dramatic boost when women are given just a bit more education, political clout, and economic opportunity. So the United States should aggressively promote women's rights abroad. And by couching its case in economic terms, it might even overcome the resistance of conservative Muslim countries that have long balked at gender equality.
  • Article
    Prügl, Elisabeth. (2012) “If Lehman Brothers Had Been Lehman Sisters...”: Gender and Myth in the Aftermath of the Financial Crisis. International Political Sociology, doi: 10.1111/j.1749-5687.2011.00149.x © 2012 International Studies Association In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008/09, there was a remarkable preoccupation in the English-language press with gender relations in finance. Articles adduced masculinity as a variable that may have caused the crisis, speculated about the more prudent investment styles of women, and predicted the fall of macho and the end of men. Drawing on the work of Roland Barthes and Simone de Beauvoir, I argue that this discourse amounted to an exercise in meaning making through the construction of a myth of woman as financially responsible and men as reckless. I interpret the deployment of this myth in the press as a morality play of fall, rise, and redemption. The play provides a narrative that explains the unfamiliar of the crisis, offers a correcting mechanism in the form of prudent woman, and re-assembles a bourgeois worldview of social and economic harmony by advocating more gender diversity in finance.