In recent years, the role of gender in societies undergoing significant political change has received increasing attention both theoretically, in the literature on democratization, and practically in the international financial support provided women's groups for the promotion of democracy. As a result, scholars and policy-makers are well positioned to consider systematically (i) the relationship between gender and democratic transformation in general, and (ii) the conditions under which women's groups and other activists can effectively promote gender equality in the emerging governmental structures. This themed issue investigates a set of questions and cases in need of thorough and methodical analysis: the relationship between gender and democratic political transformation in societies beset by high levels of violence, in which the means of political change necessarily involves a process of establishing civil peace, political reform, economic reconstruction, and social reconciliation. It asks how war-to-democracy transitions, to use Jarstadt and Sisk's term, lead to fundamental change, with particular reference to gender justice and empowerment of women (2008). Analysis is premised on the dual assumptions that (i) violent struggles over the state and polity are influenced by gender roles, relations and ideologies and (ii) the outcomes of violent struggles in turn affect gender roles, relations and ideologies. Accordingly, this collection applies a gendered lens to countries experiencing democratic transformations, located in diverse regions of the world, that have been characterized by persistent and high levels of civil and/or interstate strife. The findings of these cases advance our understandings of the prospects for achieving greater gender equality and civil liberties in some of the most volatile areas of the world.
In an effort to understand the relationship between gender and political change in conflict-settings, the articles here draw upon two rich and growing bodies of literature: (i) the literature on gender, war and peace and (ii) the literature on gender and democratic transformations. Putting these overlapping but often parallel bodies of literature in conversation with one another can lead to exciting theoretical insights. In order to identify patterns and similarities, the cases chosen for study in this themed issue are drawn from different geographical areas that are experiencing a wide variety of conflicts. Understanding gender as comprised of multiple, diverse and overlapping femininities and masculinities, the authors bring diverse disciplinary perspectives and multiple positionalities to their investigations of how gender roles, relations, ideologies and movements have both shaped and been shaped by political transformations in violently conflicted societies. Although the articles included here focus primarily on women, we understand "gender" to be a broader concept and "feminism" to imply a more inclusive critique. Similarly, our understanding of "gender justice" extends beyond women's concerns to engage LGBTQ grievances and, in the dismantling of hetero-normative and patriarchal structures and the renegotiation of femininities and masculinities, to benefit society as a whole, of which men are a constituent part.
Analysis of the articles included in this themed issue is guided by the following two sets of questions:
(i) In what ways do conflict and political change open spaces...