Gender, National Security, and Counter-terrorism

CHRGJ Research Director, Jayne Huckerby, provides the introductory keynote address at a Joint OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Expert Roundtable on Preventing Women Terrorist Radicalization in Vienna, Austria (December 2011).

Since 2001, attention has increasingly been paid to ways that U.S. counter-terrorism measures undermine human rights. However, for many years there was little to no consideration of how these measures impacted on gender. When the Obama Administration came into office, it increasingly placed gender and women’s rights at the core of its strategies to combat extremism and radicalization. CHRGJ and the Global Justice Clinic’s United States and Gender, National Security, and Counter-Terrorism Project was created in order to ground these developments within a crucial set of questions: What are the gendered impacts of U.S. counter-terrorism measures in the United States and abroad, and how can it be ensured that such measures promote, rather than hinder, gender equality?

The Project had its origins in a 2008-09 consultation undertaken with Professor Martin Scheinin–then the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism–to write advanced research on gender and counter-terrorism in support of his mandate. The result was a report delivered before the UN General Assembly in August 2009.

After the consultation, the GJC launched its full-scale, in-depth Project aimed at researching and analyzing both the ongoing gendered impacts of post-9/11 policies that had been discontinued and the gender effects of ongoing counter-terrorism measures, particularly in the areas of U.S. immigration and asylum, terrorist financing laws, development, and foreign policy. The analysis took a broad view of gender, identifying the impacts of these measures on women and men, as well as the ways in which counter-terrorism measures use and affect gender stereotypes, including those relating to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Although research and primary interviews were a large part of the Project, the core of the GJC’s work  in this area centered around a series of regional workshops held in 2010 in New York, Nairobi, Bangkok, and Istanbul. The Center partnered with local organizations to host workshops focused on identifying and reversing the gender discriminatory impacts of U.S. counter-terrorism initiatives. The workshops brought together a range of stakeholders from human rights, gender rights, and women’s rights organizations—as well as counter-terrorism experts—and provided a space for fact-finding, policy dialogue, and capacity-building. Some of the topics addressed in the workshops included the following:

  • What have been the gendered impacts of U.S. counter-terrorism measures on asylum, immigration, and immigrant and minority communities?
  • What have been the gendered impacts of U.S. material support, listing procedures, and other terrorist financing laws?
  • What is, and what should be, the role of gender in U.S. measures aimed at combating conditions (e.g. poverty) that lead to radicalization and terrorism?
  • What have been the gendered effects of U.S. counter-terrorism foreign partnerships and presence, from Iraq and Afghanistan to bilateral relationships (such as Pakistan, for example)?
  • What are the short-term and long-term gender implications of U.S. detention, rendition and interrogation practices from 2001 onwards?

The workshop schedule, partners, and key documents are:

Once the workshops and research all culminated in a ground-breaking report containing its main findings and policy recommendations, which was published in July 2011. The first of its kind, the 163-page report was widely read and received by policymakers, human rights organizations, and activists around the globe. Although the Project officially ended in April 2012, CHRGj and the GJC continue to engage the themes and conclusions reached therein in a wide variety of forums, as the work continues to have particular relevance in the spheres of both foreign and domestic U.S. policy.

The Report:

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