- Publication date
- 29 August 2022
- Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs
Gendered approaches in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) have been a topic of professional debate for some time. Practitioners, academics and policymakers are increasingly aware of the need to formulate gender-specific responses. However, key concepts commonly remain elusive and difficult to put into practice. Despite the growing interest, gender-disaggregated data continues to be scarce and sorely lacking, part of a body of knowledge largely based on male perspectives and experiences.
Given these challenges and blind spots, fostering high-quality gender-sensitive interventions remains a challenge. P/CVE services and measures, especially those for tertiary prevention, appear to predominantly reach men. Based on our review of RAN Practitioner work carried out in 2021, very few programmes in secondary and tertiary prevention are currently known to specifically target – and be able to reach – female extremists. This is not least because P/CVE programmes are mostly geared towards the prevention of violence – which is more likely to be perpetrated by men.
Practitioners have repeatedly pointed out that they have few female clients, especially in the criminal justice field. Indeed, the programmes that are well-known for targeting a female audience (P/CVE measures to address Islamist radicalisation) have stressed the role women play as mothers and peacebuilders, and in the prevention of extremism. With a growing awareness that women take on diverse, active – and in some cases, violent – roles in extremist movements, this begs the question: are we leaving women who actively participate in violent extremist groups without support for disengagement and deradicalisation, because existing services either cannot reach them and/or are not targeted to their needs? Is not only female extremists who will benefit from a more thorough, gendered approach to P/CVE policy and practice.
A more comprehensive picture of how gendered experiences shape the actions of joining, participating and exiting extremist movements will allow programmes to offer better, more tailored support for both men and women. A gendered approach seeks to ensure that P/CVE programmes do not fall foul of the same assumptions around gender and violent masculinities that may have contributed to engagement with extremist groups in the first place. Although the gender issue features increasingly in debates and events, including in those of RAN Practitioners, it remains unclear how nuanced these debates are and where potential gaps remain.
This paper seeks to contribute to the debate by taking stock of the work carried out by RAN Practitioners in 2021. The first section of the paper briefly introduces the idea of gender specificity in the context of P/CVE, based on current literature and academic debate, and explores how this conceptual understanding has evolved in RAN milestone papers. The second section considers how gender was discussed at a practical level in the specific activities of RAN Practitioners in 2021. It provides an overview of the key takeaways and debates from RAN Practitioners’ events addressing gender-relevant aspects of P/CVE work.
Lastly, it gives recommendations for improving on these, by identifying gaps and suggesting concrete short-, medium and long-term ways of enhancing efforts to promote gender mainstreaming in P/CVE.