Understanding Gender and Violent Extremism

Authored by: Pamela G. Faber, Megan K. McBride, Julia McQuaid et al.

Categories: Human Rights, The Field of Women, Peace and Security
Sub-Categories: Countering Violent Extremism, Democratization and Political Participation, Economic Participation, Human Development, Violent Extremism
Region: No Region
Year: 2021
Citation: Faber, Pamela G., Megan K. McBride, Julia McQuaid et al. "Understanding Gender and Violent Extremism." Center for Naval Analyses. March 2021.

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The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict – Stability and Humanitarian Affairs (OASD (SO/LIC-SHA)) asked CNA to study the role of women and gender in both violent extremist organizations (VEOs) and US counterterrorism (CT) and counter violent extremism (CVE) operations (hereafter CT/CVE). Our research demonstrates that the dominant stereotypes about women’s roles in VEOs miss the vast majority of female activity in these groups and fundamentally fail to capture women’s lived experiences. Despite the passage of Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) legislation in the US, we found that internal DOD activities that are truly gender considered are severely limited, lack nuance, and are not institutionalized. External US CT/CVE efforts do not consider the roles men or women play from a nuanced perspective, and they are disproportionately influenced by a set of gender stereotypes that shape expectations of men and women’s roles. Much of the current DOD approach can be traced to misunderstanding gender as a concept. This report provides an analysis of the gaps, risks, and opportunities for the Department of Defense (DOD) on understanding women and gender in extremism, and integrating a gender considered approach to CT/CVE.