What is the link between gender equality and civil war? This paper published by the World Bank reports on a study measuring gender inequality against the occurrence of intrastate conflict. Applying a number of theories on gender inequality and violence, the study tested the hypothesis that the higher the fertility rate, the greater the likelihood that a state will experience intrastate conflict. Results indicate that states with high fertility rates are twice as likely to experience internal conflict as states with low fertility rates.
Gender determines, inter alia, roles and power relationships. Women in all countries suffer from some degree of gender inequality and discrimination and are subject to varying degrees of exploitation, control, fragmentation and marginalisation. Extreme and systematic inequality leads to political violence.
Structural violence (systematic exploitation that becomes part of the social order) and cultural violence (including violent relations between men and women) create the justification for violence. Gender is an integral aspect of both forms of violence, as it forms the basis of structural inequality in all countries.
Nationalism is not gender neutral. Gendered nationalistic rhetoric has traditionally framed gender roles: Briefly put, women are biological reproducers (group survival) and men are defenders of the country (national survival). High fertility rates are themselves a result of gender discrimination.
This study finds that gender inequality increases the likelihood that a state will experience internal conflict. Fertility rate is highly significant: States with high fertility rates are twice as likely to experience internal conflict as states with low fertility rates.
Other findings include:
- A state with an at-risk minority is nearly three and a half times more likely to experience internal conflict.
- When the regime type measure isolates regimes in transition between autocratic and democratic forms of government, these regimes are more likely to experience conflict.
- The state capability score is not significant, nor are GDP per capita and average GDP per capita growth rate.
The most important implication of this study is the need to lower fertility rates in order to improve the health of women and increase their ability to participate in paid labour. This improved economic position will help women develop a sense of empowerment and, ultimately, contribute to increased gender equality.
However, lowering fertility rates is only part of the larger problem of gender inequality. Other recommended responses to the implications of this study include the following:
- Provide opportunities for women within state-level organisations and through policies such as micro-level economic loans to women.
- Develop state economic growth policies that target women.
- Clarify the rights of women in international law and policy.
- Enforce existing international law and policies on the protection of women’s rights within states.
- Support the international tracking of women’s rights and aggressively target women’s issues.
- To better understand the link between gender inequality and violence, gather and disseminate better measures of women’s equality relative to men.