Global Resources

Blame It on the War? The Gender Dimensions of Violence in Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration

Publisher: United Nations Inter-Agency Working Group on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration
Publication Date: Jan 2012
High levels of violence often persist in post-conflict settings, sometimes exceeding levels during wartime. The violence stemming from the conflict period has important, often latent, gender dimensions. For example, for male ex-combatants, who on average make up between 70 and 90 percent of armed forces and groups, socially constructed violent masculinities can become difficult to leave behind following demobilisation. While the majority of ex-combatants are male, and post-conflict violence among male ex-combatants is more visible, female ex-combatants also appear to be more prone to exhibiting violent behaviour than their female civilian counterparts.

This report suggests that while women, men, boys and girls all face significant hardships and pressures, changing roles during the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process frequently affect men and boys more profoundly. The report also finds that the DDR process can be disempowering for ex-combatants, where there is a loss of real and perceived gains enjoyed as part of armed force or group. For example, for the young in particular, membership to an armed force can be an escape from restrictive societal expectations, whilst female combatants typically experience a greater degree of equality and higher status than the Women Associated with Armed Forces and Groups (WAAFG).

The report emphasises the importance of economic, social and psychosocial reintegration taking into consideration how gender norms shape approaches and attitudes. Key recommendations include:

  • Bringing a gender perspective to work with male participants and beneficiaries in DDR policies and programmes: The Integrated DDR Standards provides strong guidance on addressing the needs of women and girls, including WAAFG, in the DDR process. However, the need for a gender perspective on men’s and boys’ experiences and their successful reintegration has been largely neglected in policy and guidance, and needs to be included DDR packages.
  • Increase support for the psychosocial components of reintegration: Donors have often focused their support on economic reintegration packages. However, the findings of this report suggest that psychosocial issues (for example, trauma-related disorders, depression and alcohol) are key factors influencing ex-combatants’ continued use of physical violence. Successful reintegration programming should therefore integrate economic, social and psychosocial components as part of a comprehensive approach.
  • Deepen engagement with families and communities of return: DDR programmes must target not only the individual ex-combatant but also his or her family and community of return. Deeper engagement with families and communities will help all to talk about the norms, attitudes and relationships that reinforce inequitable gender norms and violent behaviour; and will help support initial steps towards behavioural change.
[adapted from author]