New report: To combat violent extremism in South-East Asia, the study calls to step up regional efforts to implement gender-responsive strategies

Jakarta, Indonesia – South-East Asian countries seeking to stem the rise in online propaganda and recruitment by violent extremists during the COVID-19 pandemic must take into account how these efforts specifically target women and the different impact on women and men in the region, says a UN Women report released today.

The report, based on a survey of experts and interviews done between July and November 2021, found that extremist groups had exploited the stay-at-home orders of the pandemic to get more people in the region to engage with their messages on social media and other online platforms. That includes misogynistic views that increase the risk of women facing sexual and gender-based violence offline.

UN Women and the National Counter Terrorism Agency of Indonesia jointly published the 58-page report, Gender Analysis on Violent Extremism and the Impact of COVID-19 on Peace and Security in ASEAN: Evidence-based Research for Policy. It was written by the Monash Gender, Peace and Security Centre at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

The report recommends that national policies to prevent and counter violent extremism in the region:

  • Be based on a gender analysis of the causes of radicalization: what pushes men to join an extremist group may not be the same for women.
  • Differentiate among the ways different types of extremist groups – ethno-nationalist, far-right and communist – construct gender norms that enable or limit women’s participation or increase the risk of violence against them.
  • Recognize that women are not always the (stereotyped) victims of terrorism, but also perpetrators, supporters, influencers and active participants.
  • Involve women and civil society groups who are already confronting violent extremism in their communities.
  • Develop counter-narratives that promote gender equality, including by featuring the voices of women who were previously involved with extremist groups.

“In our region, the spillover impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced pre-existing social and economic inequalities and exacerbated intolerance and radicalization with a disproportionate impact on women and girls,” said Jamshed Kazi, UN Women Representative in Indonesia and Liaison to ASEAN. “The report sheds the light on the gender dynamics in violent extremism, highlighting the concerning trends in misogyny and hate speech during the pandemic.”

H.E. Bapak Komjen. Pol. Dr. Boy Rafli Amar, M.H, Head of the National Counter Terrorism Agency of Indonesia, said: “Mainstreaming gender is one of the best-known ways to ensure government policies meet and address the unique needs of women specifically, to prevent violence against women and create peaceful communities where women can grow and live without fear.”

Said Diane Briand, Head of Cooperation, Mission of Canada to ASEAN: “Violent extremism is developed in diverse forms and shapes across the ASEAN region. Preventing and countering violent extremism must be a prerequisite to bring peace and empower women in the region.”

Dr. Alexandra Phelan, Deputy Director of the Monash Gender, Peace and Security Centre said: “Violent extremism in the context of COVID-19, including recruitment, propaganda and/or the spread of misinformation and disinformation that justifies and legitimizes violence against women throughout the ASEAN region, has clear implications for women, peace and security particularly for gender-responsive protection. Preventing and countering violent extremism must respond to and mitigate the social and economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which can exacerbate the conditions conducive to terrorism.”

The research report supports the implementation of the ASEAN Bali Work Plan 2019-2025 adopted at the 13th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime, held in Bangkok in November 2019. The National Counter Terrorism Agency of Indonesia (BNPT) led development of the plan.

The research was done as part of UN Women’s project, Empowering Women for Sustainable Peace: Preventing Violence and Promoting Social Cohesion in ASEAN, funded by the Governments of Canada and the Republic of Korea.

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About UN Women Regional Project, Empowering Women for Sustainable Peace: Preventing Violence and Promoting Social Cohesion in ASEAN