Listening to the Silences: Women And War

Authored by: Helen Durham and Tracey Gurd

Categories: Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: International Law, Mass Atrocities, National Security Forces and Armed Groups, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV)
Country: Timor Leste, Rwanda, Sierra Leone
Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Year: 2005
Citation: Durham, Helen and Tracey Gurd. Listening to the Silences: Women And War. Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2005.

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Executive Summary

Challenging the perception that women are exclusively the victims, the caregivers or the passive supporters of men in times of armed conflict, “Listening to the Silences: Women and War” exposes the reader to a diversity of women’s voices. These voices, both personal and academic, demonstrate that women are increasingly taking on less ‘traditional’ roles during war, and that these roles are multifaceted, complicated and sometimes contradictory. The experiences of a judge, forensic anthropologist, survivor of sexual slavery, soldier, activist, journalist, humanitarian worker and others provide the reader with the opportunity to consider the depth of women’s involvement in armed conflict. Their voices highlight the fact that the international community at large has historically failed to listen to women, even as they have tried to tell their own individual tales of horror, heroism, courage, devastation, betrayal, violence and integrity during armed conflict. Concurrently the book examines in detail the legal infrastructure in this area, including debates on the adequacy of international law; developments in jurisprudence and the implementation of international resolutions. This book reveals that responses to women’s requirements during times of war will continue to be inadequate so long as we persist in silencing these differing perspectives and fail to take account of women’s dynamic and changing needs during war. “Listening to the Silences: Women and War” is a collection of women’s voices, each of which makes a unique contribution to a topic that is gathering international momentum and interest. The perspectives of these women greatly enhance our understanding of the gendered dimensionsof armed conflict – they help to move the discourse beyond silence and towards inclusion, greater understanding and peace.