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Bringing Women, Peace and Security Online: Mainstreaming Gender in Responses to Online Extremism

Bringing Women, Peace and Security Online: Mainstreaming Gender in Responses to Online Extremism
29th March 2021 Dr. Alexis Henshaw
In Report-Gnet

This report is also available in French, German and Arabic.

Please read on for the Introduction.

Over the past two decades, gender mainstreaming efforts have sought to highlight the links between gender and international security. The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, launched in 2000 by UN Security Council resolution 1325 and encompassing nine additional resolutions, has taken a special interest in addressing the status of women along four dimensions, referred to as the pillars of WPS. These include: protection; prevention; relief and recovery; and the participation of women in related processes.

The relevance of gender within the digital space, especially with relation to extremism and technology, has been acknowledged but not capitalised upon fully. For example, documents including UN Security Council resolution 2354 (2017) and the UN Counter‑Terrorism Committee’s “comprehensive international framework to counter terrorist narratives” (S/2017/375) have called for attention to be paid to gender, while efforts by UN Women have examined violence against women occurring either online or facilitated by information and communication technology (ICT). However, none of the current UN Security Council resolutions on WPS directly address the agenda’s application in the digital space. Additionally, analysis of national action plans on WPS drafted by UN member states suggests that while attention to the gender aspects of extremism and radicalisation has been on the rise since 2015, few states engage directly with technology or cybersecurity issues in their implementation strategies.

Efforts to bring WPS into the digital space may be impacted by a number of factors. First, there is a tendency to view relevant issues like the digital gender divide narrowly, framing them as development issues and siloing them accordingly. Second, the failure to envision the full spectrum of violence against women arguably results in WPS initiatives focused on certain forms of harm, like violence in fragile and conflict‑affected states. Third, attempts to extend global governance may run up against geopolitical efforts to extend national sovereignty over cyberspace. Finally, the under‑representation of women in the technology sector should be taken into account as a factor resulting in outcomes that fail to account fully for how women engage with technology.

The report proceeds as follows: first, I engage with feminist scholarship to discuss principles that can be deployed to view the study of extremism and technology through a gender lens. Next, I offer insight into the applications of this approach by discussing recent cases of gender‑based violence and gender‑based recruitment by extremists. Finally, I comment on ways to approach gender mainstreaming in this area. Throughout, I argue that the issues discussed in this report intersect with every pillar of the WPS agenda, providing the basis for future dialogue.

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