Violence, Politics, and Gender

Publication Date: 
7 Mar 2018

Publication Type:

International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) Senior Gender Specialist Gabrielle Bardall contributed an article on “Violence, Politics, and Gender” to the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics.

Violence employed to achieve or resist a political power structure (i.e., political violence) is gender-differentiated in its forms, targets and geographic localization (gender differentiated political violence [GDPV]). In contrast, gender-motivated political violence (GMPV) exists where harm violates an individual or a group’s political rights on the basis of their gender identity.

Both GDPV and GMPV share a common typology, including the forms that violence can take (physical and non-physical) as well as diverse locations, and identities of perpetrators and victims. Some scholars suggest that GMPV can also take symbolic forms. Emerging studies suggest a prevalence of both GDPV and GMPV in multiple global regions, however adequate empirical documentation is still lacking.

There are several theories as to the causes of GMPV and GDPV. GMPV may be connected to structural gender inequalities that exist in many societies or may reflect a backlash against a rise in political participation of a previously under-represented gender. The causes of GDPV reflect gendered identities and roles within any given society. The study of gender, violence and politics is emerging and several debates exist in the field. The parameters of gender-motivated violence are contested, with various frames suggested to define what acts constitute GMPV according to their motives, forms, targets or in adherence to legal, human rights or protection policy norms.

IFES recognizes that violence against women in elections is a threat to the integrity of the electoral process – it can affect women’s participation as voters, candidates, election officials, activists, and political party leaders, and it undermines the free, fair, and inclusive democratic process.