Academic journal article Military Review

The Heart of the Matter: The Security of Women, the Security of States

Academic journal article Military Review

The Heart of the Matter: The Security of Women, the Security of States

Article excerpt

What are the roots of conflict and insecurity for states? Some scholars argue that civilizational differences, defined by ethnicity, language, and religion, are the primary underlying catalysts for conflict and insecurity. (1) Others have spoken of the importance of differentiating between democratic and nondemocratic regime types in explaining conflict in the modern international system. (2) Still others assert that poverty, exacerbated by resource scarcity in a context of unequal access, is at the heart of conflict and insecurity at both micro and macro levels of analysis. (3)


In this article, we argue that there is another more fundamental, and perhaps more powerful, explanatory factor than those conventionally suggested that must be considered when examining issues of state security and conflict: the treatment of females within society. We have come to that conclusion through exhaustive research, both qualitatively as well as quantitatively. Unfortunately, the supporting statistical analyses and descriptions of methodology are too expansive and perhaps a little esoteric to be presented here for this relatively short article, and so we present here the major key findings of our conclusions. For those who have interest in seeing a concise treatment of the data analyses in significantly more detail with accompanying graphic outlays, these can be found in our book, Sex and World Peace.

At first glance, our argument seems hardly intuitive. How could the treatment of women possibly be linked to matters of high politics such as war and national security? For some, the two realms seem not to inhabit the same conceptual space. For others, the linkage between treatment of women and security is obvious. For example, in 2006, Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan opined, "The world is starting to grasp that there is no policy more effective in promoting development, health, and education than the empowerment of women and girls. And I would venture that no policy is more important in preventing conflict, or in achieving reconciliation after a conflict has ended." (4)

In this article, we wish to examine Annan's assertion focusing on the question, Is there a significant linkage between the security of women and the security of states?

When a coauthor of this article raised that question in a departmental research meeting, the answer was swift and certain: "No" The prevailing opinion was that violence wrought by the great military conflicts of the twentieth century was proof that security scholars would do best by focusing on larger issues such as democracy and democratization, poverty and wealth, ideology and national identity. Along a scale of "blood spilt and lives lost" as the proper location of concern for security studies, colleagues queried, "why would one ever choose to look at women?" (5)

Taken aback by such professed certainty that we were on the wrong course, it took some time for us to articulate an answer. On examining the issue of what "the security of the state" really means, how would one account for the death toll among Indian women as a result of female infanticide and sex-selective abortion from 1980 to the present if not in the category of such a death toll being a genuine "security issue?" The number of females deaths involved is almost forty times the death toll from all of India's wars since and including its bloody struggle for independence. This fact alone would suggest broad adverse security implications for the stability and economic well-being of the state.

Consequently, we reasoned, it would be instructive to consider the scale upon which women die from sex-selective causes inquiring into the implications such had for state security. Using overall sex ratios as a crude marker for a host of causes of death by virtue of being female, we found ourselves contemplating the results shown in the figure (page 21) in comparison with the great slaughters of the twentieth century. …

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