Germany’s National Action Plan cannot ignore domestic violence

by Victoria Scheyer

The Women, Peace and Security Agenda (WPS) forms the basis of gender sensitive peace and security policy in the international arena. While it addresses conflict affected areas it yet demands efforts in preventing gender and sexual based violence and violent extremism - without limiting actions and policy making in any direction. Some states, depending on their geopolitical location, interpret the WPS agenda as only aiming to shape foreign policy and tend to ignore their domestic challenges. The German National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) almost exclusively refers to foreign policy instruments, while domestic challenges or policies are merely mentioned, which leads to neglecting gender inequalities, and racist motivated violence in Germany and also risks reproducing postcolonial hierarchies in the international community.

NAPS of the USA, Great Britain, Italy and Australia also address their respective analyses and political means mainly towards other states and provide only a few domestic political measures for the prevention of gender-based violence and gender justice in their own countries (Shepherd, 2016). This outward facing practice suggests that sexual and gender-based violence is primarily found in countries of the Global South and not so much in countries of the Global North and could lead to the assumption of already accomplished gender equality in those countries. Unfortunately that is not the case and an outward directed policy bears the danger of dividing states into peaceful experts who are exporting their gender equality policy and violent non-expert countries. Feminist researcher Columba Achilleos-Sarll (2018) warns that through this imbalance "gendered and racialised boundaries are reinstated, evoking continuities with colonialism". However, the WPS Agenda was originally developed to respond to the local needs, insecurities and threats of respective women and to actively include women and marginalized groups in issues of peace and security (Weiss, 2011). In order to pursue an authentic feminist peace policy, it is necessary to implement the WPS agenda in one's own country, too, and locate local insecurities through an intersectional gender analysis.

In Germany insecurities and threats are not caused by arms and militarism, but rather by deep-rooted misanthropic and misogynist ideologies that are institutionalised in radical right-wing parties (AfD, NPD, Der dritte Weg, die Rechte), groups and movements (Neue Rechte, Identitäre Bewegung). Their agendas usually include misogyny and xenophobia as well as antisemitism and racism while also pursuing nationalist and anti-democratic goals (Schutzbach, 2019). A common expressed fear by right-wing groups, such as the ‘Identitäre Bewegung’ is the replacement of the ‘Deutsche Volk’ by migrants and therefore strongly rejects multiculturalism and pluralism of the society (Ministry of Interior of Lower Saxony, 2016). The AfD has even expressed achieving their nationalist and ‘völkische’ ideology by using violence, for instance when the former chairwoman Frauke Petry of the right-wing party ‘Alternative for Germany’ demanded the police to shoot migrants when they cross borders in Europe illegally (Mack & Serif, 2016). Right wing movements aim to restrict reproductive rights, self-determination and rights of LGBTQI community and want to restore traditional family images leading to gender inequalities. Marc Jongen from the AfD uses gender theories to argue towards strong gender stereotypical roles to the extent that he proposes educating real masculinity for men (Bender and Bindenger, 2016). These groups warn of a feminization of society combined with anti-Islamic, anti-Semitic or racist incitement, thus spreading their white supremacist ideology, wanting to deport foreigners and close all borders (Amadeu-Antonio-Stiftung, 2019). Their final goal, however, is the abolition of the current German constitution and democratic system while re-establishing the German Empire (Sauer, 2019).

Besides this systemic attack on social justice and democracy, these ideologies are repeatedly expressed through direct violence and violence against women. How far right-wing followers defend their ideology has recently become visible through several acts of violence such as the racist murders in Hanau and Halle. Stated by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the minister of interior these are not isolated incidents and together those groups currently form the biggest threat to the German model of democracy and its security (Tagesspiegel, 2020).

Many organisations and movements in Germany, such as Black Lives Matter, the Amadeu Antonio Foundation as well as studies on partnership violence by the Federal Criminal Police Office clearly have long pointed out the structural problem affecting society as a whole. These examples of direct violence and murders, are only the tip of the iceberg of structural violence deeply rooted in the German society that determines and affects the lived realities of many people in Germany on a daily basis, especially women, migrants, Jews, Muslims, Homo- and Transsexuals, people of colour or also disabled people. Only if this socio-political conflict is acknowledged in its extent, it will receive the attention needed to be dealt with politically. Of course, there are domestic policies and mechanisms addressing radicalization of right-wing extremism and gender-based violence and I am not arguing the WPS agenda can solve any of those insecurities, yet I am arguing that foreign policy and domestic policy cannot be separated and that the gender equality focus that Germany is advocating on the international flor needs to be translated into domestic policy, too. At least since the UN Security Council Resolution 2242 the WPS agenda involves tackling violent extremism and terror through the perspective of gender equality and violence against women approaches and that is what other frameworks do not provide. Hence, what is needed is an intersectional lens on the insecurities that people are confronted with and a conversation about gender roles in Germany.

Including a domestic approach would demonstrate authenticity and contribute to more societal peace in Germany. Identifying anti-feminism, racism and right-wing extremism as problems affecting society as a whole, increases the pressure on all actors to address these problems and makes it essential to include a gender perspective. The new NAP should also establish a domestic policy reference so that instruments such as the National Action Plan against Racism or the Federal Government's Action Plan II to combat violence against women can be more closely linked and better implemented. It would also ensure that more attention is paid to the intersecting forms of discrimination by right-wing extremists.

The original version of this paper published by in German, including policy recommendations, can be found here.


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