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Gender, Preventing Violent Extremism and Countering Terrorism

27 February, 2020



This Policy Brief is part of the DCAF, OSCE/ODIHR, UN Women Gender and Security Toolkit. It explains the importance of integrating a gender perspective in efforts to prevent violent extremism and counter terrorism, with a particular focus on the security and justice sector.

Military, police, judicial, penitentiary and other security and justice sector institutions have a legal obligation to protect and promote human rights, including gender equality. Derived from international human rights law, this obligation applies even when addressing and preventing violent extremism and terrorism.

Security and justice institutions also have a practical imperative to focus on gender roles and gender equality. The drivers to perpetrate violent extremist acts, the roles performed within terrorist groups, the impacts of violent extremism and terrorism, and state responses to them vary between men, women, boys and girls, and across time, region and ideology. Accordingly, integrating a gender perspective is a prerequisite to understand and prevent violent extremism and terrorism, and to do so in ways that do not violate fundamental human rights. Moreover, these efforts can be designed and implemented to reinforce the Women, Peace and Security Agenda: to amplify women’s voices, participation and leadership and strengthen their protection, to better prevent conflict.

The Policy Brief:

  • Explains how integrating a gender perspective enhances understanding of violent extremism and terrorism

  • Identifies why states need to integrate a gender perspective to ensure that their initiatives to prevent violent extremism and counter terrorism are effective, do not violate human rights and do not have unintended adverse consequences

  • Outlines a range of strategies to integrate a gender perspective in approaches to preventing violent extremism and counter terrorism, with particular emphasis on the security and justice sector. 

The strategies discussed in the Policy Brief include:

  • Integrating a gender perspective in criminal law and processes concerning violent extremist and terrorist offences

  • Embedding collaboration with and respect for civil society in national PVE policies and strategies.

  • Increasing the capacity of security sector actors working on PVE and CT to apply a gender perspective.

  • Initiating and maintaining gender-sensitive engagement with local communities on PVE.


Megan Bastick, DCAF