Gender and the violence(s) of war & armed conflict – is it more dangerous to be a woman? podcast
Just a quick content warning about this episode. It contains discussions of violence, including sexual violence, and descriptions of war and armed conflict that some people may find disturbing.
This week we talk to Stacy Banwell, from the University of Greenwich, about her open access book ‘Gender and the violence(s) of war and armed conflict: more dangerous to be a woman?’
We discuss how gendered assumptions of who 'is dangerous' and who is "in danger" during war and conflict obscure the realities of gender-based violence perpetrated and experienced by both sexes within and beyond the conflict zone, and how rethinking gender is key to understanding the complex dynamics of conflict and creating effective humanitarian policy.
Stacy's book is open access, thanks to funding from Knowledge Unlatched, and freely available to read on Emerald Insight.
Please note that this episode contains discussions of violence, including sexual violence and descriptions of war and armed conflict, that some people may find disturbing.
Stacy Banwell is a Principal Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Greenwich. Her research addresses gender-based violence(s) during war/armed conflict and gender economic foreign policy in war zones.
In this episode:
- What do we mean by violence in the context of war and armed conflict and how do different types of violence interact on different scales?
- What assumptions do we make around gender and how do these obscure our understanding of war and armed conflict?
- How are men and women’s experiences of violence during war and armed conflict different?
- How can we make sense of female perpetrators of violence?
- How does climate variability intersect with gender to inform violence within and beyond the conflict zone?
Gender in violence in war and armed conflict – is it more dangerous to be a woman?
Please note that this episode contains discussions of violence, including sexual violence and descriptions of war and armed conflict, that some people may find disturbing.
Today we talk to Stacy Banwell, principal lecturer in the school of law for the university of Greenwich. We talk about her new book “ Gender and the Violence(s) of war and armed conflict” which asks the question is it more dangerous to be woman? The book was published last month by Emerald and is avalaible open access as an e-book. You’ll find the link in the show notes below.
So welcome to the podcast stacy.
Thank you for having me Helen.
Let's start with what was the motivation for your research in the book, and for your research project.
So the last publication, the last article I wrote before starting the book was about the securitisation of fetishization of wartime sexual violence in Syria. So, just to explain securitization, and the fetishization of wartime rape and sexual violence involves the selective sensationalist accounts of rape and sexual violence, particularly against women and girls. And this happens at the expense of other types of conflict violence. So here what happens is, rape and sexual violence are identified as the most dangerous forms of conflict violence that poses an existential threat to certain populations. So why are we doing this article is that not only does this obscure the complexity of wartime rape and sexual violence, and the conflicts that in which they occurred, but it also marginalises other types of violence that take place within conflict sense. But I think also one of the things that I picked up on was that it also excludes the experiences of boys and men because within the securitization narrative. It is women and girls who are identified as the most fundable to this particular security threat.
This idea, this kind of securitization of fetishization of wartime rape or sexual violence was crystallised in the statement that was made by Major General Patrick comer, who was the former United Nations Force Commander for the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. And he said, “it is perhaps more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict”. So the question that forms the title of my book is taken from this statement. And while it's not explicitly stated, for me the implicit assumption in that statement is that the soldier is male. So the point being that civilian women are more risk than male soldiers during war and armed conflict, I wanted to unpack the accuracy of this statement by Patrick, and to consider what are the implications of adopting this viewpoint on women really more at risk. And if so, how? but I also wanted to ask and think about the risks and dangers, men and boys face.
And before we get into some of the questions about the findings in your book, what do we mean by the terms violence and war, and armed conflict?
So for me in order to really interrogate that statement by Patrick, It was really important for me to consider the multiple diverse and complex nature of the violence that takes place within and beyond the conflict zone. So the types of violence that I examine in the book include interpersonal violence, structural Violence, institutional violence. By that I mean violence within the military state violence, as well as genocidal, and reproductive violence and structural and interpersonal violence is that can be linked to extreme droughts caused by climate change, relatedly, given the broad case studies considered in the book, which are both historical and contemporary. I thought it was really important to acknowledge the difference between war and armed conflict. So the term war is used to describe old war such as the First and Second World Wars, which are based on geopolitical and ideological goals, and they were fought with armed soldiers of National Military institutions, and they were financed by taxation and they were centralised and evolved the labour force. New wars, which are often referred to as civil wars of armed conflict involve fragments of official Armed Forces paramilitary groups, private security companies warlords, and extremist terrorist groups, and they are asking for, in the name of ethnic, religious or tribal identities. And they use guerrilla warfare and counterinsurgency methods, and they are often funded by violent criminal activities that include things like extraction sale and illegal transport of value commodities looting pillaging and kidnapping, or say the exchange of stolen goods, money laundering at arms sales across border points. another major difference actually between old and new wars, is that in the case of the latter, so new wars on conflict. The state, often deliberately targets civilians. So by the end of the 1990s civilians made up 90% casualties in conflict which is different to what happened during old wars.
Something that you laid out really clearly in your book that violence in war - It takes place on on different levels. Can you explain a bit about what these levels are and how they interact?
Sure. So, In all of these examples that I consider I analyse them at the macro and micro levels. So the micro level refers to large scale, social, cultural, political, and economic processes interactions or structures. And these operate at both the global, and state level commission level refers to institutions, so for example the military also refers to the law. And it also refers to government organisations. At the micro level, the skills with small scale interactions, or processes, often examining behaviour at the individual level. So let me give you an example of the DRC, the Democratic Republic of Congo, where we can trace a complex relationship between economic globalisation hegemonic masculinity global hyper capitalism and the conflict related sexual violence that takes place on the ground. So at the macro level in the context of economic globalisation transnational corporations compete for access to the minerals contained within the DRC fighters on the ground use rape to terrorise and displace civilian populations to gain access to these minerals, these minerals are then sold to national and transnational companies who are involved in illegal trade. So the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war is encouraged at the metre level for the military institution where the performance of violence, sexual masculinity is required, and at the micro level marginalise men in the Congo use rape and sexual violence to subvert their subordinated position within the gender hierarchy. So a lot of the men are poor and an educated and income based society. According to localised discourses of hegemonic heterosexual masculinity, they are supposed to have physical economic and social power to various ethnic, cultural and essential economic constraints, prevent them from achieving this ideal. So they bent into hyper masculinity within the conflict zone to resolve this type of hyper masculinity, depression, and obsessive compulsive sexual violence offers these marginalised men opportunity to take advantage of the chaos of war, and to challenge their module position within the gender hierarchy. So as we can see in this example, rape is used as a tactic at All of these levels at the macro, meso, and micro level.
and that example that she that really clearly shows by focusing on one or two types of violence and events. When it's such a more complex picture with all these interactions, is a bit risky. So, what are the perceptions and assumptions around gender in the in the context of war and armed conflict and these assumptions, around gender feed into our understandings of war and conflict You know, in the examples in the book from the literature and the UN Commission?
So one of the key goals of this book was to challenge this gender essentialism that forms the basis of many assumptions and perceptions about an armed conflict. gender essentialism involves the equation of maleness with all fit of femaleness victimisation. So it involves bio political and ontological constructions of women as fundable weak, and in need of protection and constructions of men and boys as always, and already combatants, and by extension the perpetrators of the violence is of war and armed conflict. So for me, not only to obscure the experiences of male victims, suggesting that their victimisation is ontologically materially impossible. It also involves female perpetrators of horrific violence. But I think one of the things that I found really problematic was the base obscuring the experiences of male victims. Because despite the evidence, which points to the deliberate and systematic targeting of civilian men and boys. historically their experiences have just not been included within the human security framework. So as you say some of these un documents, just does not include the experiences of men and boys. So in the book I challenge these reductive and essential assumptions, first by providing examples of women who are perpetrators of sexualized violence and torture and second by revealing male vulnerability, specifically the vulnerability of the penis, when it is disempowered through sexualized violence
So I think it's really important to start challenging these ideas about how we see men and masculinity and start to recognise that you know there is a vulnerability to men and masculinity. I think this acknowledgement alongside women and girls becoming perpetrators is really important for us to move beyond simplistic assumptions about who the perpetrators are the victims of rape and sexual violence or the dangers of gender based violence, and then, what are they at risk. I think because certain backlight modem boys are regarded as those likely to become combatants this then places them at higher risk of violence and they are systematically targeted for execution, based on this idea that they are likely to join military and become combatants, and therefore they pose a threat to sort of enemy soldiers.
So men just like women and girls are also victims, and at risk of rape and sexual violence. They also risk of sexual torture genital mutilation and forced sterilisation through castration. Reproductive violence is violence that violates a person's reproductive autonomy, or violence that is directed against an individual due to their reproductive capabilities and genocidal violence is violence that is intended to destroy a point in whole or in part, and the definition of genocide includes this particular element imposing measures, intended to prevent those within the group. so here we can see the enforced sterilisation of random boys is an example of reproductive genocidal violence genital harm. retractors in relation to the genocide.
Also, men's reproductive capabilities. And when this is an act of deliberately and systematically, as was the case and it also counts as a form of genocide because you're trying to destroy that group by attacking men's ability to reproduce through restoration selection. So these acts of violence are both physical and symbolic they attack both masculinity, but also the national ethnic or racial and religious groups which they belong.
The other example that I think perhaps hasn't received as much attention as particularly in relation to male victims is sexual exploitation and abuse, and there's been a lot of research about UN peacekeepers, and African this violence against women and girls, this is where women and girls will provide sex in exchange for food or shelter or accommodation. I talk about this in relation to men or boys, and I talk about it in relation to the increased number of unaccompanied and separated children that we have seen, applying for asylum in the European Union following the refugee crisis in Europe. and in the book I talk about the experiences of boys who are providing sexual services in Greece. In order to receive payment for accommodation, and for food.
It brings two questions to mind actually but the first question is is that, you know, in relation especially to boys are we at risk of- Is there a kind of ignoring of boys in this kind of literature and at what stage do boys get considered men, and when they are really still kids.
Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. one of the things that I wanted to talk about was this idea of certainly within feminist criminology we've talked a lot about victim perpetrators and we've, we've talked about this in relation to women to understand that in a lot of cases women who commit crimes are also victims. And one of the things that I do in the book is apply this to men and boys as well and to look at, specifically male child soldiers who are committing acts of sexual violence, but they are also victims because if you look at the initiation processes, if you look at the ways in which they are forced to carry out these acts by their commanders, you can sort of see that they fall into this category of being both victims and perpetrators. when I was reading about this I was really surprised by some of the 63,000 unaccompanied and separated children, 89% of those were males. And many of those had been going on to engage in sexual activities, and I could talk about that a bit later, but it is this idea of providing sexual services, in order to survive.
something I really appreciated in your book and we talked about the perception at the UN within the literature is as women and girls have the main victims of gender based violence within war and conflict, and that challenged me a little bit, I really appreciate it the footnote in your introduction but you also started writing. From this point of view and this would be very much my perception as well before reading the book and it's quite an unsettling perspective to challenge in yourself, how did that change in your perception happen and how was it challenging your own assumptions as a woman and a feminist.
Yeah, it's really good question. So the received wisdom is that women and girls are disproportionately affected by war and armed conflict writers also argue, and I agree with this that pre-existing gender inequalities are exacerbated within and beyond the conflict between increases females vulnerability to various types of gender based violence in all of this work, women and girls are considered to be the main victims of gender based violence prior to during and in the aftermath of war and armed conflict. So this then leads to the conviction that they were disproportionately affected by the violence of war and armed conflict. If, as it is noted there is a high prevalence of violence and violence against women and girls in peacetime, what does it actually mean when we say they are disproportionately affected by war. It is proportionate to what are we saying that they're disproportionate to women's experiences of gender-based violence during peacetime, which is already asymmetrical. So I really want to get it in the book is on what basis do we make this claim about women and girls being disproportionately affected, and with whom, specifically, are we comparing them to or with. I mean, do we make this claim because, making it the majority of civilians during wartime conflict, say compare the numbers of male combatants their suffering is disproportionate, but I suppose based on this logic then that there are higher numbers of male combatants based on their higher participation as fighters. Doesn't it make more sense to assume that males make up the majority of casualties. In fact, statistics suggest that young men of military age are more likely to be killed in war, whether it was combatants or civilians. So what I'm trying to think about and ask is Ghazal preoccupation with the binary equal experiences of women and girls, during war and armed conflict diminish our ability to acknowledge the suffering of male civilians and combatants. How do we interpret their victimisation., is there a difference between increased vulnerability to certain types of gender-based violence, which can happen to both males and females have been disproportionately affected by war and armed conflict. And what I do in the book is that I sort of lay out this challenge, or this comment on the disproportionality thesis, but I also admit that when I began writing about this topic. I also was blinded by this focus on disproportionality. I also just kind of wrote about it in this way. But after spending more time researching and thinking about this topic, particularly when I started reading about the experiences of boys and men. I started to see this kind of comparative quantitative analysis where you're trying to figure out who suffers more is actually short sighted truthful exercise is to examine the ways in which you war and armed conflict are gendered. How is suffering gendered? How does gender experiences of war, conflict, rather than trying to focus on everything suffers.
And I think, you know, just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that women and girls can not suffer. And that we don’t need to take their experiences seriously, but I am suggesting we should abandon this comparative analysis where we are being who suffers. I think we should be asking how they suffer differently in the abstract this might sound like a challenging position to take.
Stacy banwell 19:37
Once you start reading about the experiences of boys and men and once you start reading into the examples of women as perpetrators of sexual violence during wartime conflict.. Then I think you start to see that the story is more complex, and more nuanced and then I think it becomes easier to sort of move away from this focus on disproportionality,
I think, you know, the example you set out at the beginning, around different levels in order, and the example from Costco, really shows that it's nuanced and complex, and that actually stepping away from that assumption allows a clearer analysis of the different things going on between these different actors, different levels. And I think that's important for actually for researchers to be able to solve the problem. In what ways are women's experiences different?
so this one this idea of woman-as-nation. So in both old and new wars. When it comes to represent the nation, they are regarded as a centre of gravity. So, female bodies are because of their capabilities are regarded as the vessels to which national, ethnic, racial and religious identities are reproduced. So this is why writers use the phrase woman as an agent. The idea being that men fight wars to protect their nation. So, rape is used in this context, not only is an attack upon the individual female, but it's also attack upon the nation. So enemy, men will attack women who belong to the other enemy to attack of that state. And in order to stop that nation. And this is ultimately genocide or rape is how genocide occurs during the Bosnian genocide. And this involves the systematic rape and unforced impregnation of Muslim Croatian women by Serbian men. So many victims were detained in webcams where they will repeatedly wait until they became pregnant and held captive until access to safe abortion was no longer possible. So as noted in the Genocide Convention This presents problems within the group. This is because women's rooms are occupied with babies from a different ethnic group. Expand results in the birth of an ethnically mixed child, and these children are often described as belonging to the enemy. So according to the logic of the woman his nation thesis genocidal rape, not only dishonours the woman, but it also dishonours the ethnic group, which belongs. It also destroys her. She has a child that is considered to belong to the group as destruct destruction of the group is also achieved, because women are ostracised, they are expelled. And so they often leave the group to which they belong. And men refuse to engage in marriage or sexual relationships with these using quotation marks here. Spoiled women expelled ostracise these women. And so, this idea of women as nation. Places women in particular risks of this type of violence, the examples that I draw upon to explore this are the Holocaust, or the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
I think something that also brings to my mind is how that violence is also delivered generationally, because that gender based violence group of women subjected to it affects their children. Yes, but I think that also is something that we are going to be talking about the generational effects of violence.
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that's one of the next projects for me is this idea of transgenerational trauma exactly as you say from the children who were born from genocide or rape in Rwanda, and in the former Yugoslavia and near to look at how they are exactly that they are regarded as the enemy they are completely expelled from their communities.
Is that what we mean by Structural Violence is that a type of structural violence?
not how I've sort of phrased it in the book so for me Structural Violence is a form of structural inequality or discrimination that maintains women subordinate position. So, why I've conceptualised Structural Violence is that it refers to women's lack of access to employment, education, welfare, health care, or social and economic infrastructure. So one of the examples that I look at Structural Violence is forced prostitution, or lack of access to reproductive health care. So, a lack of access to safe abortion, as a form of violence, like talking about the nation's genocide.
Certainly the main example is this idea of forced prostitution. And what I find in some of the UN documents is that definition of violence against women, acknowledges that force doesn't have to involve coercion from a third party force can also refer to a lack of alternative means of survival. So here force can relate to the fact that a woman is unemployed or that she's living in poverty. and that this then forces into prostitution, we need to move beyond interpersonal examples of violence against women and girls, and consider the structural forms of violence that also kind of raises the question for me around, who would consider as being structural violence because we've mentioned, the issues with say NGO peacekeepers coercing women into sex with that exchange of sex for food and in your Darfur example, the corporations are also implicated in this construct of violence.
Yeah, exactly. Absolutely. One of the things that I do in the book which raises this kind of age or rather divisive debates amongst feminists is look at this idea of agency and argue with these women who are engaging in these core sexual activities and survival sex, do they exercise agency you know all the victims who are the perpetrators in those examples and how easy is it for us to sort of simply, you know see these women as not making any choices and not having any agency and so I do sort of unpack the various feminist debates and I think it's very difficult to particularly talk about other people's experiences, without having experienced it yourself, despite the fact that these women are selling sex, you know, in order to get food or to get shelter to get money, but they are still consenting so for some feminists that they find this zero tolerance approach that the UN has adopted in their various documents that they've produced, they find that hugely problematic. So they find the term sexual exploitation and abuse, which I just talked about relation to random boys, they find that term really problematic, because they don't see it as a form of abuse or exploitation they see these women as exercising agency, and that they have consented, which is problematic.
I think there's something around executive women having experience, arguing over what to call that experience when people who have had that experience, they have a right to dictate what that experience was, I mean again is the problem categorization or is the problem, helping resolve these situations for women.
Yes, exactly yeah i think that you get so caught up in the terminology, and often that you forget the subject matter that you're actually discussing which is the fact that women and girls and boys are selling sex, in order to survive during war on conflict about gender
What about gender and masculinity and femininity within the military itself, and how it is constructed and enacted?
so here we go back to this gender essentialism again. And we see this kind of reproduction of the inherent maleness of war fighting and war making. militarised masculinity expects men to be tough, and aggressive. The military is where they learn to fight and kill for their woman for their nation, comparing that to kind of idealised versions of militarized femininity, which over the state expects a woman to be as capable as a male soldier, but as vulnerable as a woman sorry militarised woman is can be tough, but she can't be violent. She's supposed to be brave, which is not supposed to be self-sufficient. She is masculine, but not too above femininity, and she is frail but she’s not afraid. Ultimately, even though she is a soldier and she's fighting for our country. At the bottom line, we still expect women in the military to be these kind of innocent Beautiful souls.
So it becomes difficult then to understand, women's role in the military, and yet we have seen an increasing number of women, join the military so it would seem that they like men fight for and protect the nation. And yet, what most sort of write about in the book is that this expectation idealised militarised femininity, which is that they are still expected in these beautiful souls. To me, the fact that they are expected to perform this underscores that what is required of female soldiers is very different from what is expected for male soldiers. I mean, The biggest issue is this kind of promotion of a heterosexual violent masculinity that clearly isn't promoted for women within the military. And that is why I chose to focus on the example of women who committed acts of sexual violence torture in Abu Ghabrib
Yes, the images of Lyndie English. I remember those being in the news, how does gender play out in the involvement of female soldiers in these acts of violence and how did this contradict notions of femininity ?
to try and understand this contradiction in women's involvement, for the three women who are involved in this violence so - Megan Abdul, Lyndie England as you say, Sabrina Harmon. But I think, in order to really understand what happened there is that you have to place this violence against the backdrop of American exceptionalism, and the war on terror. More broadly. so in the book I argue that the war on terror was a hyper masculine orientalist pursuit, we must remasculinatize the American empire following the 0/11 attacks. So basically, this was about masculinities of Empire.
I try consider how women's involvement in this sexualized violence, featured within this kind of enactment of American foreign policy that had been based on this idea of masculinities of Empire. And they do so by drawing on my idea of war on terror femininity. Because what I wanted to argue that in the broader context of the war on terror. It was almost tolerated and accepted that women could engage in violence and sexual violence, because they were engaging in this violence against terrorists.
So the image that I use in the book. is the image of James greener on Sabrina Harmon. It's the one where they post behind a pyramid of naked Iraqi prisoners at Abu Gharib. If you if people remember graders are standing at the top. Sabrina is below him in the image below her in a pyramid, or the naked Iraqi men who are piled on top of one another.
This image can map onto Connells gender hierarchy, which consists of these four types of masculinity, as the most dominant form of masculinity is always positioned above the others. Then we have an implicit, marginal and subordinated masculinity. And then below that, we have femininity. In the image. We have green up at the top, his arms are folded he's relaxed. He's playful, he represents the patriarchy and patriotic masculinity. When we have Sabrina. And in the image she's quoting underneath greener, so she's both literally and figuratively placed below. She represents femininity, or in this context, my sort of reimagined notion of war on terror of femininity. In this particular context and femininity is placed above subordinated masculinities. These are actually in the form of these naked, who did Iraqi prisoners. These are actually in the image placed below Sabrina.
So what I'm arguing is that this image at once kind of reproduces Connells gender hierarchy, but at the same time it challenges it. So, unlike in the gender hierarchy, where women are always already inferior to all types of masculinity. Sabrina is actually in this image placed above the inferior rocking man. But she still remains kind of subordinate to the white Western man, represented by greater.
in order to resolve the paradox of violent women. In this particular example, is that what we see is a kind of temporary context specific investment of hyper masculinity, that does rely on war on terror femininity. So in this particular kind of battle against the enemy of the terrorists It is acceptable for women to engage in violent behaviour. I think in terms of thinking about how the media responded to this and and try to resolve the paradox of violent women or women, engaging in examples of sexualized violence. Certainly, there were lots of conversations about Linda England, and in these media accounts, she was demonised sexualized, and infantilized, and was believed to have acted under the influence of her then boyfriend, Charles grey and so the idea was that England had been manipulated Into committed these acts of violence, which then, obviously, removes her agency. She was also present in the media as well. So lots of the major stories of Linda focused on her gender, more accurately distortion of it, and I particularly like this quote by Han and she said she was represented as being inappropriately masculine, as well as inappropriately female agenda abnormality with one foot in each of these seemingly dichotomous categories.
And what was interesting to me is that these portrayals of women as masculine as trying to be like mad or reminiscent of the views of from Brazil for arrow, who in their kind of 1893 book The criminal woman argued that the true biological nature of a woman is antithetical to crime. So therefore not only is a female criminal abnormal. She's biologically like, you know, more like a man, so put simply, the argument is that a woman who's capable of aggression and violence becomes seen as a masculine woman as other, and this kind of characterization refuses to take seriously or acknowledge women's violence. I tried to sort of resolve this tension by offering my example of war on terror femininity to argue that we don't need to rely on these media representation demonise or masculinize women we can look at this in a very particular specific context and argue that in this kind of broader war on terror in the context of American exceptionalism. This type of violence was, to a certain extent, tolerated by women.
there were many American soldiers in those photos but that Lindy England is the one I really remember and the one that the media effects are nice and had the most problems kind of reconciling with our notions of femininity.
Yeah, it's interesting isn't it I think when Lyndie stands trial shes 8 months pregnant. how do we understand that, how do we reconcile those images of her as a pregnant woman standing trial for these crimes.
The problem the media had around how to categorize Lyndie England, how to explain her involvement rather than looking at the the actual issue which was these detainees were being tortured and dehumanised
Ultimately, I thought necessary and acceptable to that violence in the broader context of this war on terror and American exceptionalism where we just thought yes anything is necessary in this fight against terrorism. this context, women were seen as good enough to kind of subordinate escalators man. It was used as props because I don't want to deny their agency and take part in these actions. But it's interesting to me that, that adds even more insult to injury if you like those Iraqi detainees. The fact that this act violence is carried out by white Western women, I think, you know, has has more of an impact. And so as much as we were shocked. And I think if you look at different explanations, a lot of them failed to kind of explain it. I argue that if we do sort of adopt this idea of femininity. Very context specific. It kind of helps us to understand why and how this has happened and why not everybody was as shocked by the violence.
And one of the key messages in your book is around this link between climate change extreme weather and gender. How does climate change and extreme weather events play into the causes and consequences of armed conflicts? And what role does gender play in this relationship?
So yes why you have two examples to examine this link between climate change and conflict so I look at Syria, and Darfur. And so I look at extreme droughts in both cases that have been caused by climate variability, and in Syria look at how this led to increases in poverty And in Darfur and look at how that led to clashes over natural resources. So in the case of Syria I look at this in relation to illicit economies, and in Darfur I look at it in relation to the genocide and reproductive violence that was committed against or for the males. So for Syria. What I found in the research was that as a result of the drought, which was caused by climate variability, had a huge impact on sort of livestock and agriculture and left at least a million Syrians food insecurity and unemployment levels, increased exponentially. Leaving millions of Syrians including poverty. So what happens then is that within this context the informal, or illicit economy flourishes. And in conflict zones. There are three types of illicit economies. There's the coping combat and criminal coping economies survival, whereas complex and criminal economies are driven by military objectives. Profit seeking activities, so as a result of extreme poverty and a lack of employment opportunities, which came as a result of the drought, a huge number of Syrians were forced to work in this informal economy. And this can be broken down by gender. So men from the various warring factions in Syria, turned to combat and criminal activities. So they engage in activities such as kidnapping trafficking for sexual purposes smuggling of oil smuggling of women and girls, whereas Syrian women will resort, or resorted to coping economies in the form of survival sex. So the absence of their husbands who are missing or who have been killed during the conflict, women become the head of the household and faced with this kind of increasing lack of employment opportunities, which were exacerbated by the drugs in Syria. Women then resort to providing sexual services in exchange for food and accommodation for their families.
I mean, going back to this idea of being challenged by this perception of women is the main victims of gender based violence during war and armed conflict. I think something that the book makes clear is that it's really important, from a research perspective, and from a policymaker perspective, to take that step back and consider gender as a whole. Because otherwise, you're only getting half of the picture of any of these examples. And it just shows me that actually, this focus on women may potentially lead to more harm for women, because policymakers not understanding the full picture or not having that concept of gender as a whole leads to ineffective solutions
Yeah, absolutely. Added to this idea you're saying about gender is again, if you go back to the reason I started thinking about the book, this idea of just focusing on warmaking, sexual violence, if if we do that, we continue to just look at that form of gender based violence, just looking at this example of climate change and really narrow the diagnostic framework. Whereas if you start to sort of look at structural examples of gender based violence, in my example of, you know, core sexual activities, that then leads you to open up analysis and consider things like climate change and extreme weather events, such as droughts, that your examples that you're looking at. So you're not just narrowly focusing on two elements, you're kind of including elements are the kind of variables that you wouldn't have thought of. So I think it's important to order what we mean by gender. But certainly, and this is where again, I use the term finances mean, by violence, including structural violence, I was able to add these kind of environmental elements to the discussion as well, you know, working on on research around gender based violence, conflict and more.
Reading survivor testimonies, and accounts looking at researching traumatic events comes in its own challenges. How do you manage those as a researcher?
It is, it is hard, certainly to the chapter where I look for survivor testimonies from the Holocaust, I found that particularly difficult for that I had to visit only one place that you can do this in this country where you can access the archives, and videos of survivor testimonies I found that I partticularly difficult. So I found that that was difficult for me to watch, I thought it must have been difficult for survivors. And I suppose that that makes me think that if they are sort of brave enough to share their stories and sort of be asked questions in that particular way, that any discomfort that I feel watching that is kind of secondary. And that's not to say that we can take our own feelings and responses into account. But I think I always try and remember what it must be like for the people who are, you know, answering questions about that.
I think the other thing, I try to move beyond any kind of sensations, accounts of this type of violence, and always base research on first hand accounts, or empirical research that has been carried out by NGOs who've been working with victims and survivors, however difficult that might be, again, to read about or to see these images. I think one of the things that I found most difficult when researching the book was about the responses that I came across other people's responses to this violence. As we said earlier, when these images of the sexual abuse and torture Abu Ghraib surfaced, there was kind of initial shock and horror war to take place. Not everybody did see shocked and horrified. And I did find in my research that people hadn't been as universally shocked by these images. And I think, perhaps, as I said earlier, one of the reasons for this is that people view this as this violence as a kind of just unnecessary response to the threat posed by you know, these dangers, I get them using inverted commas dangerous terrorist. I mean, for me, this kind of lack of shock and horror, kind of sort of explains why some of these images have been appropriated and recontextualize in numerous ways.
and I think the most obvious example is the doing a Lyndie phenomenon. This involves people posing like England does in one of the pictures. So the picture is the infamous picture of in the England, where she's either doing a thumbs up gesture, or she's signalling that she's holding a pistol aimed at the penis of one of the hooded naked Iraqi detainees, Abu Ghraib. And the kind of Lindy pose is actually included in the urban dictionary. And it's defined as the act pointing and laughing, underwear victim while holding a cigarette in your mouth, and then being photographed much like Lyndie England, one of the images that stood out for me was a young boy doing the image I just couldn't try to reconcile a young boy posing like England, I found that quite difficult. And I spent my time, you know, talking about that I found really difficult, you know, just coming into contact with people's responses to some of these atrocities.
It's another way that that violence, that incident echoes out. And it's replicated.
Yes, yeah. Yeah. And I think it goes back to what I was saying earlier, but how I don't think these images have the same ability to Shockers especially if you consider all of those people who have taken those pictures. I think there's some reference to an A Simpsons episode as well. So I think, you know, based on that, I sort of felt like yeah, this, you know, compassion. Fatigue is a real phenomenon, especially if people are just, you know, uploading these images and the images Well, the people are smiling, they're kind of they have this mocking look on their face. So it's all really playful, which just isn't what is referring to,
So where does research into gender-based violence and conflict and war? Where should it go next?
I think one of the things that I would like to see is more examples or interrogation structures, structural violence against men and boys. So the examples that I look at while they do look at sexual exploitation and abuse, in relation to boys and men, I have focused more on reproductive and genocide, violence, I think there is definitely scope to consider structural violence against men and boys. There's definitely space for the development of research on climate insecurity and war and conflict. But I went to the American Society of criminology conference last November, there was some really excellent sessions on what they were calling climate criminology. And so I think there's space for that to include, you know, the link between climate security and war and non conflict. I myself, I'm going to have done it for another piece of work. But I'm going to look at it in more detail this notion of transgenerational trauma, and looking at experiences of children born from genocidal rape. Because one of the things that I've found actually in kind of starting to think about this particular area, is that this idea of transgenerational trauma is something that has been dealt with quite a bit in popular culture. One of the things that sort of I was thinking about when writing is that I recently watched the watchman TV show, and in that, lots of stuff about transformation traumas, those about sort of inheriting legacy and unresolved trauma. And so I thought that was really interesting that we're seeing it in popular culture In that way. But also, one of the things that I've been listening to during this time is a podcast that unpacks beyond says lemon aid visual album. And in that there's some really interesting things about, again, the legacy of trauma, the legacy of slavery and racism, and how this can be, you know, this, how this is inherited and the ways in which people try and resist that trauma. I mean, obviously, I'm not equating these TV shows and these kind of albums with genocide or rape. But I think the point I'm trying to make is that we see these things in popular culture, they're things that people are familiar with. And so I think it's an important time to sort of draw people's attention to how it sort of plays out in the context of war and armed conflict, and to start to think more about the experiences of children who have been born from genocide away.
Helen Beddow 52:32
That was a fascinating discussion, though.
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