Integrating gender into counter-terrorism

Integrating gender into counter-terrorism

On 1 November 2019, the Counter-Terrorism Committee held an open briefing on integrating gender into counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism. CTED/Vijai Singh

The Security Council, the Counter-Terrorism Committee, and the Committee’s Executive Directorate (CTED) have actively promoted the integration of the agendas on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism (CVE). Including a gender perspective in countering terrorism and violent extremism requires a focus on (i) women and girls as victims of terrorism; (ii) women as perpetrators, facilitators, and supporters of terrorism; (iii) women as agents in preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism; and (iv) the differential impact of counter-terrorism strategies on women and women’s rights. It is also important to highlight that a gender perspective not only means focusing on the roles of women but also on the roles of men, masculinities and structural gender inequality. 

Women and girls experience particular vulnerabilities as victims of terrorism and therefore have specific protection needs. This includes safeguarding women’s human rights in conflict situations, displacement contexts, and other circumstances in which they are subjected to the effects of extremist violence. A particular focus in this respect has been sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), as well as the nexus between SGBV and trafficking in the context of terrorism, as highlighted by the Security Council in its resolutions 2331 (2016) and 2388 (2017). It is important to remember that a gender-sensitive approach must also include the experiences of male victims in this regard. 

Women can act as perpetrators, facilitators, and supporters of terrorism. Even though this is not a new phenomenon, increasing attention is being paid to this aspect in the context of female foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) who travel to, and return and relocate from, conflict zones. The drivers of female radicalization are still understudied. This is problematic, given that an understanding of such drivers is essential for devising an effective response. A gender-sensitive approach should also take into account notions of masculinity and gender stereotypes in the mobilization and recruitment of men. 

It is increasingly recognized that women have an important role to play in countering terrorism and violent extremism, both on- and off-line. Women can act as early warning and de-radicalization agents in their communities and families. However, they also have essential roles to play in policymaking, the security sector, and law-enforcement services. The inclusion of women in the delivery of security is not only important from a gender equality perspective, but often enhances the effectiveness of law-enforcement efforts. Women diversify the perspectives and expertise that inform policies and responses and can also engage a broader range of stakeholders and enter spaces that may be restricted by cultural and religious sensitivities. Enhancing women’s participation in law enforcement can increase the effectiveness of early warning and the identification of threats, and also strengthen community-engagement initiatives. 

As set forth in Council resolution 2242 (2015), it is important to assess the differential impact of counter-terrorism strategies on women and women’s human rights. Women can be affected differently by certain counter-terrorism policies and practices (e.g., research has demonstrated that counter-financing of terrorism laws affect women differently in places where they must rely on alternative remittance systems because their access to the formal banking sector is limited). 

In accordance with resolutions 2242 (2015) and 2395 (2017), CTED continues to strengthen its focus on the gender dimensions of its efforts to assist Member States to counter terrorism, including with respect to prevention, interdiction and response, prosecution, rehabilitation, and reintegration. In its interactions with Governments and civil society, CTED continues to integrate the gender perspective, including by inquiring into engagement by States with women and girls in aspects of the implementation of Council resolutions 1373 (2001), 1624 (2005), and 2178 (2014) and into good practices and technical assistance needs, in the knowledge that women and girls can contribute an expanded range of insights, expertise, and experience. CTED also integrates gender perspectives into country assessment activities conducted on behalf of the Committee. In some cases, this has been done through the participation of UN-Women in the assessment team. CTED also co-chairs the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact Working Group on Adopting a Gender-Sensitive Approach to Preventing and Countering Terrorism. 

CTED also co-chairs, together with the UN-Women Office for the Arab States, the Expert Platform on Gender and Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism in North Africa, which brings together civil society experts, academics and government representatives working at the intersection of gender and CVE in the five States of the region (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia). 


CTC open briefings 


On 9 September 2015, in the lead-up the adoption of Council resolution 2242 (2015), the Committee held its first open briefing on the role of women in countering terrorism and violent extremism. 

On 1 November 2019, the Committee held an open briefing on integrating gender into counter-terrorism and CVE. The speakers included representatives of United Nations agencies, researchers and civil society. The meeting was held on the margins of the annual Security Council open debate on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). 


CTED publications on gender


Download the CTED factsheet about gender.