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WILPF Reviews Aisling Swaine’s “Conflict-related Violence Against Women”

May 18, 2018

© WILPF 2018

Aisling Swaine is the author of the new book, Conflict-related Violence Against Women: Transforming Transition, and her research is helping to widen the discussion and context of gendered violence. Her novel explores the history of violence against women in three specific jurisdictions: Liberia, Northern Ireland and Timor-Leste. Expanding on meticulous research, Swaine thoroughly examines the context of this type of violence, considering and presenting both individual and international factors.

“This book,” she writes, “has identified a much broader range, form, functionality and character to [conflict-related violence against women] CRVW than acknowledged in the specific ‘weapon of war’ paradigm, or in approaches that treat [conflict-related sexual violence] CRSV as an episodic disruption to an otherwise peaceful landscape to women’s lives.”

Swaine’s rebuttal of the common presentation as CRVW as an isolated period of time is vastly important to the process of policymaking and peacekeeping by international bodies. She presents her information keeping careful consideration of the environmental, social and political influences on CRVW, an approach that is underutilised in typical debate around this subject.

Swaine’s breaking-down of the stratification of CRVW situations is of central importance to the novel. The delineation of instances of CRVW creates a strategy of reparation that is neither comprehensive nor preventative of future violence.

“Losing sight of the original aim of broadening what can be known and understood about conflict is regressive to the broader feminist project as well as to efforts to deepen understanding of periods of armed conflict,” Swaine explains. She further argues that developments in understanding violence in the context of gender should not be devalued in favour of type-casting moments of sexualised violence. “The research that underpins this book specifically,” she writes, “aimed to re-open that canvas and to bring gender and context-relevant and feminist analysis back to rapidly developing global responses to CRVAW.”

The body of information that Swaine has amassed is both quantitatively and qualitatively comprehensive. She has exactingly covered all bases in her work, and considered contemporary and relevant arguments.

Swaine’s book is unsurprisingly valuable to organisations like WILPF, who must constantly monitor the evolving discussion of women’s rights and gendered violence and the way in which these discussions affect global policy. But Conflict-related Violence Against Women, though certainly of an academic nature, is not destined to remain solely in this sphere. The book is incontrovertibly important to all processes and individuals involved in the progression of global women’s and human rights, and to achieving substantive comprehension of CRVW.

In short, as written in the book, “If transition and justice is to be transformative it would capture the harm that women experience, its meaning in context and why it holds a meaningful effect, and not just the violent act itself.”

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