Breaking the Mold: Understanding Gender and Electoral Violence

Dec. 14, 2011, 3:04 p.m.

IFES published a new white paper exploring the causes and effects of violence carried out by women and against women during elections. It provides a framework for understanding gendered electoral violence and provides suggestions to reduce election-related violence from both genders.

More women around the world are now key players in the political processes of their countries as voters, candidates, representatives, protesters, journalists and civic educators in the home, community and beyond. These enhanced roles enrich and inspire developing republics to extend the principles of equality, legitimacy and representativeness. However, as emerging democracies struggle to consolidate, overcome violent pasts and address crippling poverty, they often falter and breed disillusionment. Religious and ethnic divisions may appear or intensify. In these complex contexts, electoral violence threatens – or beckons – women in new ways.

This white paper explores both sides of this issue, women as victims and women as perpetrators of electoral violence. This paper also lays out programmatic responses for local, institutional and non-governmental actors and the international democracy promotion community. The first section of this paper explains the premise of electoral violence as a specific phenomenon for study and establishes gender as a specific subset in that field, with distinct forms, causes, impacts and solutions. The subsequent sections explore gendered roles and experiences related to electoral violence, among victims and perpetrators. The final section concludes with practical programming recommendations for assistance providers. While drawing on the growing literature from development and women’s studies as context, this paper introduces a cross-country gender analysis of data from IFES’ Electoral violence Education and Resolution (EVER) project. By introducing gender to the study of electoral violence for practitioners, donors and policymakers, we seek a better understanding of the challenges and potential entry points in this field.

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