Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Perpetrators and Victims: Exploring Women's Roles in Ethno-Religious Conflicts in Plateau State, Nigeria

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Perpetrators and Victims: Exploring Women's Roles in Ethno-Religious Conflicts in Plateau State, Nigeria

Article excerpt

Conflicts across the globe today are no longer limited to states. In many cases, non-state actors like armed groups, religious militia and criminals have become important actors. These non-state actors and their actions pose significant threats to women and children and in many instances, the state lacks the capacity and the political will to protect these vulnerable groups from violence. While violent episodes of conflict can end, it does not signal the end of the impact it has on communities. Women and children particularly have to live with the physical and emotional trauma they experience during these violent conflicts. As this paper will show, violent clashes in Plateau State in north-central Nigeria have had grave consequences for all, but more particularly women and children regardless of their ethnic and religious backgrounds. As the focus of this study, women have been involved in the conflict, not only as victims but also as perpetrators of violence in the State. The paper draws attention to how ethnoreligious dynamics and related violence have affected women. It further examines the gender dynamics in this complex and diverse society and argues for a focused and active inclusion of women's needs in conflict prevention and peace-building.

The paper used conflict theories to unpack and understand the causes and reasons for why groups engage in conflict and the concept of human security to explore and bring forward the perspectives and narratives of women in conflict societies. Both are also useful in understanding the conflict dynamics and triggers in Plateau State. This is particularly important in a society that is patriarchal in nature. The paper concludes with a discussion on women in ethnoreligious contexts and what this means for peace building and conflict prevention efforts. This discussion is particularly important because violent ethnoreligious conflicts are a cover for underlying and long-standing structural issues such as political exclusion, economic marginalisation, indigene versus settler rights and dissatisfaction with political leadership and systems. Thus, peace building and conflict prevention must pay attention to these causes of conflict that manifest in ethnic and religious sentiments and actions.

Methodology

This paper relies on both primary and secondary sources. Secondary sources include desk reviews of scholarly journal articles, book chapters and other academic papers. Primary data was collected between 2013 and 2014 in Jos, Plateau State. Primary sources include interviews and moderated focus group discussions (approximately 8-10 respondents) as well as news reports, government documentation, and organisational reports focused on peace, security, gender and women's issues in Plateau State. 53 semi-structured key informant interviews (KII) and ten focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with purposively selected representatives from government, civil society organisations (CSO), women's groups, youth groups, security sector, media, religious organisations, and citizens. These sessions were guided by a pre-prepared checklist of questions. The nature of this study required a qualitative approach particularly because the issues are complex, multi-layered and involve a wide range of perspectives and actors. Qualitative research holds merit in this instance because it creates for flexibility and fluidity in the data collection process and makes space for the emergence of new and unexpected findings (Bryman, 1984).

Background to the Plateau State Conflict

Nigeria has been characterised by ethnic, religious and regional differences and clashes. Osaghae and Suberu (2005) state that ethnoreligious conflicts feature as the most violent form of conflict in the country. Osaghae (1998) notes that while inter-group conflicts have long existed in response to various political developments in Nigeria, they were not as violent and grave as conflicts between Christians and Muslims across the country. …

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