What are the gender dimensions of conflict drivers and of stabilisation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo?
Question: What are the gender dimensions of conflict drivers and of stabilisation in the eastern DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo)?
Key findings: There are large knowledge gaps. Gendered evidence is very limited and problematic. The evidence available points to the following findings:
On conflict drivers:
- Gender is mostly discussed in relation to rape as a weapon of war (masculinity and instrumental use of gendered terror by armed groups).
- Sexual and gender-based violence has led to traditional authority and power relations being replaced with a violent, militarised social order.
- Many women have actively participated in the war, in different roles.
- Women, especially widows, are strongly disadvantaged in land ownership (land is a known driver of conflict).
- Women have generally been under-represented and marginalised from national and local politics.
- Building capacity and accountability in the security sector could help tackle sexual violence. The Congolese army is a primary perpetrator of abuses and operates with impunity.
- State services such as healthcare are in a very poor state for all, including women. Economies of violence affect women. Any land reform has to ensure women are not excluded.
- Domestic violence and substance abuse have characterised male ex-combatants’ return, while non-combatant women from armed groups were overlooked. In socio-economic recovery, women’s roles as producers and providers have increased, especially for internally displaced and refugee widows. Women have assumed traditionally male roles and risk a backlash. The main problem remains the very poor socio-economic situation. Suffering and exploitation with regard to rural livelihoods and health have strongly affected women and children.
- Gender-based sexual violence goes beyond wartime abuse against women. There is socially normalised civilian and military violence. Responses must take into account collective trauma. Holding abusers accountable will require a gender-sensitive judicial reform.
Combaz, E. Gender dimensions of conflict drivers and stabilisation in eastern DRC (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 970). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, Birmingham, UK (2013) 15 pp.