Rigid Boundaries 2017-11-10T13:37:48+00:00


In the hope of casting light on the numerous questions about how gender and Violent Extremism are related, the Brussels International Center for Research and Human Rights (BIC-RHR) is launching a series of essays that aims to trace the multiple trajectories, formation and transformations that have defined the roles of women and men with regard to violent extremism. Seen through a broad historical and gender lenses, this series is an endeavor that seeks to understand the intractable, inter-connected questions concerning women and men’s agency and subjectivity in processes of violent extremism.

Using an interdisciplinary approach, we investigate the inter-connected questions between gender and violent extremism.

Gender and Violent Extremism

In our perspective, both gender and violent extremism are central to understanding the contemporary and transnational currents that have effects in our societies, roles and identities, state-society relations, and how these actors respond to these challenges.

Given the constant ramification and ambivalence surrounding extremist violence and gender aspects, we see these terms as critical to understand the phenomenon of terrorism. For instance, acts of violence tend to be highly gendered and usually exploit rigid stereotypes about masculinity and femininity to achieve its goals.

In conflict-settings, men and boys are routinely targeted for recruitment. In the case of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), it exploits gender norms and portray women as the ‘future mothers of jihadi children’ and target men with the message that male fighters will be rewarded with as many women as they wish in the afterlife. Accordingly, using a gender lens also includes men and boys, as gender refers to the different needs, experience and status of both women and men based in a social-cultural construct.

In our view, de-radicalization or preventive efforts on violent extremism (P/CVE) has to have a significant and substantial inclusion of a gender perspective for the sake of enhancing its operational, policy and programs’ effectiveness.


Therefore, by perceiving, discovering and reflecting on the connections between gender and violence in conflict-settings, the series Gender in Violent Extremism’ aims to show how rigid both concepts are perceived from a security point of view and how this can hamper counter-terrorism and anti-radicalization efforts.

As per Sahana Dharmapuri:

“A gender perspective improves situational awareness because it provides a socio-cultural lens on power relationships, including race, class, poverty level, ethnicity and age. Using a gender perspective in the process of assessing the implications for both men and women of any planned CVE action, program, policy, or legislation illuminates the differential threats and opportunities for men and women’s security.”

This series will therefore provide a multi-faceted approach to gender and violent extremism and bridge the gaps of research in the area.


Gender Dynamics of Boko Haram’s Tactics: Insights Into the Nigeria Case



From Theory To Action: Gender At The Eu’s Policy Framework



Motivations and Drivers to Violent Extremism: Context Matters



Gender ≠ Women:Unravelling the Concept of Gender



Women’s Roles in Terrorism and Violent Extremism


About the author

Fernando Aguiar

Fernando has a master in International Relations, with a specialization in Conflict and Security from the University of Kent. He built his expertise in a multifaceted approach raging from political communication and strategy, international politics, gender and conflict, in the Central-East African context. His exposure to policy making and diplomatic relations at the EU Institutions (EEAS) has provided a solid basis for his analytical understanding of contemporary issues, particularly in the field of gender in conflict prevention and peace processes in Central Africa and Middle-East.