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Violent Conflict and Gender Inequality: an Overview

DOI: 10.1093/wbro/lks011

Buvinic, M et al. “Violent Conflict and Gender Inequality: an Overview.” The World Bank Research Observer 28.1 (2013): 110–138. Print.

p.110: Violent conict, a pervasive feature of the recent global landscape, has lasting impacts on human capital, and these impacts are seldom gender neutral. Death and destruction alter the structure and dynamics of households, including their demographic profiles and traditional gender roles. To date, attention to the gender impacts of conflict has focused almost exclusively on sexual and gender-based violence. We show that a far wider set of gender issues must be considered to better document the human consequences of war and to design effective postconflict policies. The emerging empirical evidence is organized using a framework that identifies both the differential impacts of violent conflict on males and females (first-round impacts) and the role of gender inequality in framing adaptive responses to conflict (second-round impacts). War’s mortality burden is disproportionately borne by males, whereas women and children constitute a majority of refugees and the displaced. Indirect war impacts on health are more equally distributed between the genders. Conflicts create households headed by widows who can be especially vulnerable to intergenerational poverty. Second-round impacts can provide opportunities for women in work and politics triggered by the absence of men. Households adapt to conflict with changes in marriage and fertility, migration, investments in children’s health and schooling, and the distribution of labor between the genders. The impacts of conflict are heterogeneous and can either increase or decrease preexisting gender inequalities. Describing these gender differential effects is a first step toward developing evidence-based conflict prevention and postconflict policy. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.111-112: The conflict literature distinguishes the direct effects of conflicts, such as the killing, wounding, and physical destruction that result from violence, and indirect effects on economic performance and human welfare. Similarly, we separate direct and indirect effects, when relevant, and underscore both first and second-round impacts on gender differentials. First-round impacts operate through the following channels: (a) an increase in mortality and morbidity (especially of men and children) as direct and indirect consequences of violence and destruction along with a higher incidence of widowhood; (b) forced displacement and migration; (c) asset and income loss due to the disruption of markets, infrastructure destruction and damage, and deaths of household members; and (d) sexual and gender-based violence. Second-round gender impacts resulting from excess male mortality include the induction of women into political and civic participation and changes in marriage and fertility behavior. Another set of second-round impacts emerge as conflict-affected households respond to the loss of family members and declines in household income and consumption with coping strategies that involve changes in women’s traditional household roles. Women respond to decreases in household income by increasing their hours of work, entering the labor force, or adjusting their time and effort in the home. Women can further cope by altering their fertility or by migrating, and households can curtail (or increase) their investments in children’s health or education. We cover these second-round impacts on children because of the interdependence between women’s choices and children’s well-being that is especially salient in poor countries and among poor households. We also reference evidence from the economic crisis and gender literature that illuminates the gender differentials observed in response to conflict. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.112: Once wars begin, they are “development in reverse.” -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.113: Between 1981 and 2005, the poverty headcount rose in countries affected by major violence, and it fell substantially in countries with minor violence and sharply in those with negligible violence (World Bank 2011, gure F1.3). Collier and others (2003) have concluded that conflicts account for part of the growing income gap between the poorest countries in the world and other countries. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.113: The destruction of conflict contributes to “conflict traps,” in which nations that are already poor and exhibit lagging human development are caught in cycles of protracted struggles and entrenched poverty. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.114: An equally serious methodological hurdle is the lack of reliable baseline information on many of the variables of interest in conflict research, such as the levels of violence before a conflict, recall errors, and possible survival bias when using ex post measures to approximate baseline information and, especially in the case of sexual and gender-based violence measures, the possibility that increased incidence may simply be an artifact of improved reporting over time. In addition to these hurdles, there is a general lack of empirical information on gender variables at the individual and household levels, difculty in measuring intrahousehold issues when investigating gender inequalities, and logistical difficulties and risks involved in both conducting research and acting as a research subject in conflict and postconflict situations. Safety and ethical issues arise, especially in investigations of sexual and gender-based violence and interviews with combatants. Finally, conflict research generally conceptualizes conflict as a discrete event or shock, although conflict is a process that evolves over time and recurs in repeated cycles of violence (Brück and others 2010). -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.115: First-round impacts of violent conflict include excess male mortality and morbidity as an obvious direct and indirect consequence of violent conflict, resulting in widowhood, sexual and gender-based violence, asset and income loss, forced displacement, or migration. These first-round impacts often result in reductions in household income and consumption, triggering coping strategies that have gender implications. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.117: Violent conicts affect population health in ways that extend beyond the direct effects of violence through a combination of increased exposure to infectious disease, acute malnutrition, poor sanitation, and a lack of health services. The evidence suggests that women and children have more exposure to these indirect effects of war on health than men do. Indirect effects occur because health and other infrastructure, such as roads needed for effective health system functioning, may be damaged, and resources may be diverted away from health (Ghobarah, Huth, and Russett 2003). -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.117: Baez (2011) found that the flood of refugees from the genocides of Burundi and Rwanda into a neighboring region of Tanzania had adverse impacts on the health of local children, including a 7 percentage point increase in child mortality and an increase of 15–20 percentage points in infectious diseases. These findings are in line with other studies that caution that neglecting vaccination and disease control efforts in postconflict settings can lead to devastating epidemics and further fatalities (Connolly and others 2004). -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.118: A meta-analysis of 25 years of research on sex differences in trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder showed that females are at greater risk of developing posttraumatic and depressive symptoms after traumatic events, whereas males report more exposure to trauma, even when comparing the frequency and severity of war trauma experienced by civilian male and female victims of war or terrorism (Tolin and Foa 2006). -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.120: Estimates of sexual and gender-based violence can suffer in both wartime and peacetime from serious underreporting (i.e., because people are unwilling or afraid to report gender-based violence, especially when the perpetrator is a family member) or overreporting, when incidence statistics are inflated because reporting improves with time (Nordas and Cohen 2011). This situation also occurs in peacetime, making it very difcult to accurately assess the increases in sexual and gender-based violence that are associated with conflict. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.121: By the end of 2009, it is estimated that 42 million people had been forced to leave or flee their homes due to violence—15 million refugees outside their country of residence and 27 million internally displaced persons, with women and children comprising 80 percent of all refugees and internally displaced people (World Bank 2011). Such circumstances leave women almost entirely alone to care for their families under very difficult circumstances. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.121: This situation is made worse by the destruction of social networks and the consequent depletion of important elements of people’s social, economic, and political capital, including the previously mentioned constraints that accompany widowhood and female headship. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.122: Despite generally bleak conditions, refugee camps can sometimes offer better services than those available in the refugees’ places of origin. However, people may linger in refugee camps as internally displaced people for years, if not decades. One review of global displacement trends estimated the average length of displacement at 14 years (Norwegian Refugee Council 2004). -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.122: Examining the 10 settings that produced the largest number of refugees as of 2002, the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children (2004) found that among refugees, enrollment levels decrease after grade 4 for both boys and girls, with gender differentials steadily increasing; enrollment rates were 20 percent higher among boys than girls in first grade and were nearly twice as high at the secondary level. Refugees and the internally displaced reflect highly gender-specic consequences of violent conflict and civil wars. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.124: The way that households recover from the shocks produced by violent conflict is part of their adaptive responses, and women often assume the primary responsibility for ensuring the survival of families. Women take over this pivotal economic role especially when working-aged males have died or have joined (or been forced to join) fighting units and when families are forced to move internally or to another country, and women and children form the majority of those displaced (World Bank 2011). -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.125: The shortage of grooms may lead to changes in marriage practices, such as an increase in polygamous marriages and informal unions. For instance, in the case of Colombia, the impact of male mortality due to internal conflict is partially responsible for the increasingly high frequency of consensual unions and, potentially, for female rural to urban migration (Holland and Ferguson 2006). -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.126: Evidence suggests that violent conflict can trigger unexpectedly positive civic and political behaviors by women and other groups in the population who are largely excluded from participating in civic and political life during peacetime. Experiences of war violence are highly correlated with greater levels of social capital, community engagement, and peaceful political engagement. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.126: Regarding El Salvador, Wood (2003) argued that government violence prompted its victims to support and even join opposition forces out of moral outrage. Similarly, in Sierra Leone, Bellows and Miguel (2006, 2009) found that individuals living in households that experienced mortality, injury, or displacement due to war are more likely to be politically active and to participate in local collective action, as evidenced by voting, attending community meetings, being more politically knowledgeable and engaging in community maintenance projects. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.127: Another positive outcome of peace processes and political transitions has been women’s increased participation in civil and political life. As survivors of conflict, the expansion of women’s roles in postconflict reconstruction often leads to the emergence of women’s organizations and networks. Through these organizations and networks, women mobilize to integrate a gendered perspective and women’s representation into peace negotiations and throughout the post-conflict period (World Bank 2011). -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.127: In Haiti, Liberia, Nicaragua, and Sierra Leone, for instance, transitional governments introduced female staffing and gender-specific service in the police force (World Bank 2011). In Timor-Leste, the transitional administration supported by the United Nations engaged women in rebuilding public institutions (UNIFEM 2009, 30–31). The new constitutions in Uganda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nepal adopted affirmative action mechanisms, especially quotas and cooptation systems, to help empower women economically and politically. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.128: Hoefer and Reynal-Queral (2003) found that a five-year war is associated with a 13 percent increase in infant mortality, an effect that persists during the first five years of peace. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.129: Many studies have shown that children’s growth is affected by violent conflict, and some studies have reported gender differentials. Children living in high-conflict areas during the 2003 Iraq war were found to be 0.8 cm shorter than those living in low-conflict areas (Guerrero-Serdan 2009). One reason for stunting is the higher incidence of diarrhea in high-intensity conflict districts. Another possible factor, according to the author, is maternal stress. Valente (2011) observed an increased probability of miscarriage in early to mid-pregnancy in high-conflict Nepali districts. She hypothesized that maternal stress, rather than poor access to health facilities, is responsible for this increased neonatal mortality. She also found some evidence for selection effects; that is, healthier women are more likely to become pregnant and to give birth in times of violent conflict. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.129: Faced with an anticipated crop failure, poor households may have chosen to protect their sons. This finding corresponds with Baird, Friedman, and Schady (2011), who examined data from 59 developing countries and found that infant mortality rises with negative economic shocks and that female infants’ survival is especially sensitive to such shocks. These authors noted the importance of implementing policies that protect the health status of female infants during economic downturns. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.131: However, the study of war and its social and economic legacies is difficult. Those who participate in or simply live through wars often suffer from persistent injuries, receive less education, and experience a permanent decline in their productivity and earnings. However, it remains unclear which impacts are most profound and persistent, which disproportionately strike the poor, and how these effects can be contained by local institutions and economic policies (Blattman and Miguel 2010). In particular, there is very little knowledge of the factors that make some individuals and households more resilient than others to the impacts of conflict. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.131: Until very recently, however, gender issues were not part of the empirical literature on violent conflict, except for a focus on gender when documenting sexual and gender-based violence in the context of war. As this overview of recent studies shows, gender inequalities shape and are both shaped by the responses of individuals and households to violent conflict. These inequalities are a legitimate and important focus for the policy-oriented literature on conflict. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.133: Interdisciplinary collaboration, particularly with the aim of measuring psychosocial outcomes and informing public health practice, is crucial. The usual steps of research design may differ as a result of a lack of sampling frames, population mobility, and the overall difficult conditions in which conflict-affected groups live, but the goal should be to produce, to the greatest extent possible, useful and methodologically rigorous insights that can inform the design of effective conflict prevention and postconflict policies—the foremost objective of any conflict research. Gender is an important variable in this research that highlights particular conflict-triggered vulnerabilities, such as infant girls’ nutritional status, boys’ schooling deficits and widows’ burdens, and shapes specific resilient responses to inform the design of these policies. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014