Senior Military Fellow Col. Emma Coulson Releases Gender Violence Paper

United States Army Colonel Emma Coulson recently released a research paper written while serving as 2010-2011 Senior Military Fellow at the Joint Center. Her work, entitled The Impact of Gender-Based Violence on Stability and Security, examines how protecting and empowering women in unstable countries can lead to greater human development and, in turn, more peaceful nations.

An excerpt from Colonel Coulson’s paper can be found below. The full document can be found at the Joint Center website.

The strategic environment of our world is ever changing.  Our globally interconnected world has brought with it globally interconnected problems.   One of these problems is gender based violence (GBV).  The links between GBV and a nation’s security and stability are undeniable.   High rates of such violence drain the state of both earnings and resources, and threatens stability and governance at all levels.  It discourages investment, destroys social cohesion and limits employment and educational opportunities.  GBV is an important barometer of state fragility as it points to the states inability to provide basic security, services or capacity to impose social controls on GBV behavior.  This is particularly harmful to development efforts in low income and war torn countries. We can ill afford to continue ignoring GBV in its various forms throughout the world.  It is a public health issue and human rights issue affecting poverty, development and economic growth which are all critical to stable nations and a stable world.

GBV for this paper is defined as ‘any harm or suffering that is perpetrated against a woman or girl, man or boy and that has a negative impact on the physical, sexual or psychological health, development or identity of the person’.  The root cause of the violence is founded in gender-based inequalities and gender-based discrimination.The term gender-based refers to the inferior or subordinate role of women in the construct of their respective societies rather than on a biological basis which defines a person’s sex.  Gender equality references the equal rights, responsibilities, obligations and opportunities of both genders.  It considers access, participation and impact for both genders in actions such as legislation, policies and programs at all levels.  GBV includes such acts as rape and sexual assault, child marriage, prostitution, female genital mutilation, dowry-related violence, trafficking, sexual gender based violence during armed conflict (SGBV), gendercide, ‘honor’ killings, forced sterilization and acid throwing.   Any long-term solution to GBV is best addressed using cross cutting strategies at multiple levels with a coordinated and mutually reinforcing attack. This can most effectively and affordably be done using a human security model consisting of two components, physical security and human development.  It is time to scale back military dominance of U.S. policy, consider alternative options and place value on the full elements of our national power.  A human security model specifically confronts deteriorating conditions and their causes that increasingly plague many unstable areas of the world.  It is a people-centered approach to overall security that is individual-centered rather than state-centered.  It both secures and develops the people at the individual level.   A combination of human security and development are essential elements of increased national, regional and global security.

The intent of this paper is to promote a better understanding of GBV and its impact on US and global stability and security.  It will examine the macro and micro root causes of GBV.  By applying a human security model it will demonstrate the potential of gender inclusive human development to contribute to economically and socially stronger nations.  This creates a platform for equity that promotes a sustained peace, reduced GBV and more stable and secure nations.


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