Links between violent extremism and violence against women


Tue 18 Feb 2020

This article collates some international resources on the links between violent extremism and violence against women (VAW).

In September 2019, UN Women published a Guidance Note that explores the use of gender mainstreaming in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE). In the foreward, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said: 

“In my visits to affected areas, I have seen first-hand how sophisticated these groups are in exploiting existing gender inequalities and ideas around traditional or ‘ideal’ roles for women and men in their recruitment materials and propaganda.” 

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka went on to say that the UN response needed to: 

“… correspond to that sophistication, tactically integrating gender and women’s rights in P/ CVE design, implementation and evaluation. This means ensuring that our programming and support appropriately reflect the different needs of women, men, girls and boys. It means addressing the systemic vulnerabilities that women face. At the same time it is vital to recognize how the intersection of multiple facets of women’s identities – including their age, ethnicity, education level, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability – can increase vulnerability for some, but also provide women with valuable insights into preventing violent extremism in their communities. It also means working to eliminate harmful masculinities and promote positive behaviours, and removing the barriers to women’s participation and leadership in prevention and reintegration work.” 

The United Nations Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism (2015) contained recommendations specific to gender equality and empowering women including:

  1. Mainstream gender perspectives across efforts to prevent violent extremism
  2. Invest in gender-sensitive research and data collection
  3. Include women and other underrepresented groups in national law enforcement and security agencies, including counter-terrorism prevention and response
  4. Build the capacity of women and their community groups to participate in prevention and response
  5. Ensure funding projects that address women’s specific needs or empower women

United States organisation Futures Without Violence has stated:

“As much as the subordination of women is at the forefront of violent extremists’ strategy, advancing gender equality has not become a cornerstone of the architecture of response.  In fact our reactive response to violent extremism has shifted much of our energy toward military and technological strategies and away from development and human rights initiatives which directly impact the strengthening of the community in general and women in particular.” 

Researchers at Monash University’s Gender, Peace and Security Centre (Australia) have been examining gender-based approaches to preventing violent extremism and terrorism, writing:

"... we have explored the relationship between attitudes characterised as ‘misogyny’ or hatred of women, acts of violence against women and girls, and violent extremism. In three countries in Asia, we have found that support for violence against women and hostile sexist attitudes are both stronger predictors of support for violent extremism than religiosity, which is commonly perceived to be the major root cause."

Other international research and resources on the links between violent extremism and VAW

Australia’s implementation of women, peace and security: promoting regional stability (Louise Allen, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 2020)

Report: Gender dynamics in violent extremism (summary of expert meeting hosted by Wilton Park, UK Foreign Office and UN Women, 2019)

Understanding the role of gender in preventing and countering violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism: Good Practices for Law Enforcement (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, 2019)

Recognizing the violent extremist ideology of ‘Incels’: Policy Brief (Women In International Security, 2018)

An approach to prevention and countering terrorism and violent extremism? (Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 2018)

The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy Review: Raised expectations, missed opportunities from the June 2018 review (Center on International Cooperation, 2018)

Women and countering violent extremism (Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, 2017)

Linking security of women and security of states: Policymaker Blueprint (Futures without Violence, 2017)

Building government civil society organisation partnerships: Implementing gender-based approaches to Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2017)

A man’s world? Exploring the roles of women in countering terrorism and violent extremism (Global Center on Cooperative Security, 2016)

New Zealand policies, strategies and discussions of violent extremism

Since the Christchurch terror attacks, measures introduced by the New Zealand Government to address terrorism and violent extremism include:

Further information and commentary is available in the resources and media list below:

Christchurch in the context of New Zealand terrorism and right wing extremism (Battersby & Ball, 2019)

Speech to the Annual Conference of the Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand by Royal Commission member Jacqui Caine (25 August 2019) 

Kōrero Whakamauāhara: Hate Speech (Human Rights Commission, 2019) - overview of NZ's legal framework on hate speech

New Zealand National Action Plan for the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, including 1325, on Women, Peace & Security 2015-2019 (New Zealand Government, 2015)

Update - Released in February 2020:

New Zealand's Counter-Terrorism Strategy (2020)

Cabinet Decision ERS-19-SUB-0026: Looking Forward: Strengthening New Zealand Against Terrorism and Violent Extremism (September 2019, publicly released 2020)

Community organisations

Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand (IWCNZ)

Khadija Leadership Network

Shakti Community Council - on 13 March 2020, Shakti will launch #LetsDealWithIt, a campaign to raise public awarenss of all forms of discrimination and highlight the work of change-makers already working to address discrimination

Related media

Anjum Rahman: We can do better, E-Tangata, 15.03.2020

Letter to NZ from Islamic Women's Council: 'In the face of depravity, NZ chose humanity', NZ Herald, 15.03.2020

Christchurch mosque shootings: 'We need justice,' says Islamic Women's Council, NZ Herald, 14.03.2020

Christchurch mosque shootings: The big change driven by the little country, NZ Herald, 13.03.2020

Further gun law changes stall as mosque attacks anniversary nears, RNZ, 13.03.2020

Paul Spoonley: threat of far-right extremism has not gone away, RNZ, 11.03.2020

Call for stronger focus on breaking down sense of isolation, RNZ, 09.03.2020

Ignored by the state - How Muslim women tried to warn of impending danger, RNZ, 08.03.2020

Gun reforms: Government split over second phase of legislation, RNZ, 06.03.2020

Extremists able to own guns under National’s proposals, Newsroom, 05.03.2020

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tells ministers NZ at 'greater risk' of attack after March 15, NZ Herald, 23.02.2020

'Significant' rise in tip-offs about racists and white supremacists since March 15, SIS says, NZ Herald, 12.02.2020

Hate speech up since Christchurch terror attack; Government considers law changes, Stuff, 27.01.2020

We Stand with Wellington’s Jewish Community, Press Release: Foundation Against Islamophobia and Racism, Scoop, 23.01.2020 

Far-Right extremism in the NZDF, Press Release: Foundation Against Islamophobia and Racism, Scoop, 19.12.2019

Hate crime: A fifth of offending in New Zealand is linked to discrimination, Stuff, 17.12.2019

Royal Commission of Inquiry into Attack on ChCh Update, Press Release: Royal Commission of Inquiry into Attack on ChCh, Scoop, 13.12.2019

Five frustrating years and eight awful months, Newsroom, 09.12.2019

Don't use mosque attacks to justify gun laws- Muslim group, Otago Daily Times, 29.11.2019

Islamic women’s group threatened, Newsroom, 29.11.2019

New register for Islamophobic and racist incidents created, RNZ, 22.11.2019

How the Christchurch Principles will fight the spread of hate, Spinoff, 12.11.2019

Nailing jelly to the wall? Universities, academic freedom and free speech, The Spinoff, 11.11.2019

Experts discuss life online after Christchurch mosque shootings, RNZ, 4.10.2019

Greg Barton: Australia isn’t taking the national security threat from far-right extremism seriously enough, The Conversation, 03.10.2019

Emails reveal Islamic Women's Council's battle for government attention, RNZ, 29.07.2019

Frustration, concern with Chch Commission, Newsroom, 29.05.2019

We must recognise racism in NZ before we can put it right, Stuff, 24.05.2019

Counterterrorism experts on why we must engage with online extremists, The Listener, 21.05.2019

Islamophobia in New Zealand: where does it come from? NZ Herald, 22.03.2019

I Am a Muslim New Zealand Woman And I Am As Angry As I Am Sad, Vice, 18.03.2019

Islamic Women's Council repeatedly lobbied to stem discrimination, RNZ, 17.03.2019

Anjum Rahman: We warned you. We begged. We pleaded. And now we demand accountability, The Spinoff, 17.03.2019

Joshua Roose: ‘Ideological masculinity’ that drives violence against women is a form of violent extremism, The Conversation, 12.07.2018

Image: Arlington Research on Unsplash

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