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Study finds women are vulnerable in post-war peace processes

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Post-war peace processes are a dangerous period for women. Many are forced to live close to men who committed serious abuse during the war or are expected to testify in various types of truth commissions, which can be both retraumatizing and stigmatizing. These are the findings of a new study by peace researchers at Uppsala University, published in the journal PLOS ONE.

"In short, peace projects can force women to live side by side with ex-combatants who committed atrocities during the war. This puts them at risk of further threat and violence," explains Karen Brounéus, professor of peace and conflict research at Uppsala University.

Together with colleagues at Uppsala University, the Center for Social Change in Nepal and the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka, she has in a new study examined how peace processes in former conflict-hit areas in Sri Lanka and Nepal have affected women and men. The two countries were chosen because they have been at peace for similar lengths of time, but are very different in other respects. For example, they experienced different types of conflicts, but most importantly, the two conflicts ended in very different ways, which fundamentally affected the peace processes.

In Nepal, the conflict ended with a negotiated peace agreement; in Sri Lanka, the government army defeated the rebel group in a very brutal way. The survey was conducted in the form of a household , with over 1,000 people in Nepal and 1,000 people in Sri Lanka participating.

In Nepal, respondents were selected from districts affected to varying degrees by the conflict; in Sri Lanka, respondents were selected to ensure a variety in ethnic backgrounds. In both countries, half the respondents were women and half were men.

Participants were asked about their war experiences, attitudes towards ex-combatants and different types of peace initiatives. The results show clear differences between women and men in their attitudes towards peace-building measures that affect , with women being more negative than men. However, there is no significant difference in how men and women view processes that take place far away from everyday life, at the elite level.

"For women, a peace agreement does not always mean peace and security. Previous research shows that increases during and after war, and that many of the methods used for peace-building pose risks to women," says Brounéus.

"For example, in truth commissions, which are often set up under pressure from the international community, the process of testifying about war crimes can be retraumatizing. In addition, if the testimonies relate to conflict-related sexual violence, this can also lead to the woman being stigmatized. It is therefore not surprising that women in our study have more negative attitudes towards peace initiatives that affect everyday security."

She emphasizes that the results should not be interpreted as women being against peace or not working for peace. On the contrary, previous research has shown that globally, women play a crucial role in both initiating and driving various forms of peace-building.

"Unfortunately, women are rarely part of designing the peace agreement and their safety is not a political priority after war. There is great potential for improvement here, if the international community and the UN were to start making more space for women's perspectives. Research also shows that peace agreements are more sustainable when more voices and perspectives are heard," adds Brounéus.

More information: Women, peace and insecurity: The risks of peacebuilding in everyday life for women in Sri Lanka and Nepal, PLoS ONE (2024). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0303023

Journal information: PLoS ONE

Provided by Uppsala University

Citation: Study finds women are vulnerable in post-war peace processes (2024, May 29) retrieved 12 June 2024 from
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