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Linkages between conflict and rates and types of VAW

Last edited: December 20, 2019

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Gender inequality and patriarchal norms are the underlying causes of violence in both conflict and non-conflict-affected settings. While there has been substantial documentation of drivers of VAWG in non-conflict settings (Heise, 1998), research is still emerging about how armed conflict affects the pre-existing drivers of VAWG (for example, partner’s alcohol consumption, poverty, martial conflict, etc.) and creates new risk factors that may further impact on rates of VAWG.  The links between non-partner sexual violence and armed conflict have been well documented. Until recently, little evidence existed on the links between conflict and other forms of VAWG, such as intimate partner violence. Available evidence suggests that the forms of VAWG prevalent in conflict and post-conflict settings are comparable to VAWG in non-emergency settings. Although recent research has confirmed that non-partner sexual violence is pervasive in conflict settings, emerging research demonstrates that intimate partner violence is even more prevalent than non-partner sexual violence during times of conflict and post-conflict crises in a number of settings (Murphy et al., 2019). According to data from the What Works studies, 1 in 3 women and girls across three sites in South Sudan experienced non-partner sexual violence and 1 in 5 women and girls in a baseline study of 15 villages in Eastern DRC were raped in the past year (Global Women's Institute & the International Rescue Committee, 2017; Palm et al., 2018). In comparison when looking at IPV, at least 1 in 2 women and girls across three sites in South Sudan and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories experienced IPV (Global Women's Institute & the International Rescue Committee, 2017; Unpublished data from Arab World for Research and Development and South African Medical Research Council, 2019). While a limited body of evidence has begun to emerge around the prevalence, forms, and drivers of VAWG in conflict and post-conflict settings, less is known about other forms of VAWG such as sexual exploitation and abuse and forced, early child marriage (Murphy et al., 2019).


Given that successful approaches in decreasing VAWG target underlying unequal gender norms and practices in non-conflict settings, similar approaches may be applicable in conflict and post-conflict settings. Such programmes will need to be adapted to post-conflict contexts (e.g., camp settings, urban displacement, mobile populations etc.) and will need to address the drivers of VAWG acutely present during times of crisis.