Women's post-war gains : a quantitative analysis
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The consequences of civil war are comprehensive. Civil war causes mass destruction and violence, and leads to the displacement of many thousands of people, but does it at the same time destroy patriarchal structures? Previous research on the link between civil war and changes in gender equality is divided. Some recent studies have found that the aftermath of war provides women with a window of opportunity, but many case studies report a backlash in women’s freedom after war. Using global time-series data from 1960 to 2012, this study provides the first extensive analysis of the relationship between the end of an internal armed conflict and improvements in women’s political empowerment. I employ gender-specific indicators from the Varieties of Democracy dataset to test various aspects of women’s political empowerment. The regression analysis shows that the aftermath of internal armed conflict is associated with improved freedom of discussion and bettered access to justice for women. The effect is largely caused by conflict terminating in a negotiated settlement. It is also found that the number of female legislators increases in the aftermath of war, but only after high-intensity conflicts. The findings support the theory that gender equality can be achieved not only through incremental growth, but that women’s movements can exploit political transitions and political vacuums to gain political power and improve their position in society. The results suggest that policy makers should be aware of the post-war opportunities for increased gender equality.