WAR STARTS AT HOME

June 11, 2009

Does the security of women influence the security and behavior of states?  Existing evidence linking the situation of women to state-level variables such as economic prosperity and growth, health, and corruption is fairly conclusive.  Questions remain, however, concerning the degree to which state security and state security-related behavior is linked to the security of women, says a new study in the journal, International Security.

Using a new data resource -- the WomanStats Database -- and conventional methodology, researchers found a robust, positive relationship between the physical security of women and three measures of state security and peacefulness:

  • The physical security of women, whether that is measured including or excluding the enactment of son preference through female infanticide and sex-selective abortion, is strongly associated with the peacefulness of the state, the degree to which the state is of concern to the international community and the quality of relations between the state and its neighbors.
  • However, the other three alternative explanatory variables (democracy, wealth, Islamic civilization) are also significantly associated with these same security measures.
  • Moreover, the results indicate that the prevalence of Islamic culture is not, comparatively speaking, an important predictor of the level of peacefulness of the state, or of the degree to which a state is of concern to the international community, or of the quality of relations between the state and its neighbors.

Although these results are preliminary, it is still possible to conclude that the security of women must not be overlooked in the study of state security, especially given that the research questions to be raised and the policy initiatives to be considered in the promotion of security will differ markedly if the security of women is seriously considered as a significant influence on state security, say researchers.

Source: Editorial, "War Starts at Home," The Atlantic, June 2009; based upon: Valerie M. Hudson et al., "The Heart of the Matter: The Security of Women and the Security of States," International Security (Harvard University), Vol. 33, No. 3, Winter 2008/2009.

For text:

http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/IS3303_pp007-045.pdf

 

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