Gender and conflict in the Western Balkans


How have structural gender inequalities changed during and after the various conflicts in the Western Balkans? To what extent do legacies of gender based violence during conflict continue to impact social relations?


Ethnic wars in the Western Balkans had a parallel in ‘gender wars’ – and both were instrumental in fostering competitive, conflictual and antagonistic perspectives of social relations (Hughson, 2012). This report provides a brief summary of gender relations and (in)equalities in the Western Balkans, in particular, how they have been influenced by the violent conflicts following the
breakup of Yugoslavia. It discusses gender stereotypes and the portrayal and treatment of women and men in Western Balkan societies; gender-based violence during conflict and its
legacy; women’s agency in the region; and women’s rights and participation post-conflict. Much of the literature focuses on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia – and the report reflects
this. There is a companion piece to this report which focuses on gender norms and indicators of gender equality in the Western Balkans. In the lead up to the conflicts in the region, there was a re-patriarchalisation of Yugoslavian society and a reductionist portrayal of gender roles. The concept of ‘militant masculinity’ placed males in the role of violent warrior, capable of fighting ethno-national wars, and women in the role of biological reproducers or nurturers of the nation (Berna, 2014; Haug, 2013; Hughson, 2012).

Suggested citation

Haider, H. (2017). Gender and conflict in the Western Balkans. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.