There has been a longstanding body of literature on women in the armed forces at least since the 1970s (Segal, 1999). This literature varies considerably in its approach, from feminist work that reflects on the forms of masculinity produced through military and militarization, to work that considers women’s role in the army and attitudes towards women in the army. Furthermore, policy efforts to increase women’s participation in the army (such as UN Security Council Resolution 1325) have explicitly called for the inclusion of women in peace and security efforts. In this paper, we contribute to this literature by assessing how male former combatants from the Democratic Republic of Congo, living in Johannesburg, talk about the women they fought alongside. In doing so, we reconsider the impact that war and associated forms of militarization have on notions of masculinity and femininity both in times of war and its aftermath. We further explore how men’s notions of gender were challenged by the presence of women in the army and how they negotiated this in light of the highly masculine contexts they operated in. We argue that the inclusion of women in the armed forces is heavily shaped by the context and meaning given to conflict and cannot automatically be assumed to have a positive impact on the functioning and practices of the army. We draw out the implications for how the gendered nature of the army is restructured in post-war contexts and how this impacts on demilitarization.

Author Bio(s)

Dostin Lakika Mulopo holds a master’s and PhD degree in Forced Migration Studies from the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS), University of the Witwatersrand. His master’s dissertation explored the perception of illness and treatment of Congolese forced migrants, victims of violence. As part of this research, Dostin participated in formulating a research project at ACMS on upholding the psychosocial rights of forced migrants and publishing a report entitled, Exploring psychosocial and health rights of forced migrants in Johannesburg, and a book chapter entitled, Violence, suffering and support: Congolese forced migrants’ experiences of psychosocial services in Johannesburg. His PhD entitled, Living the past in the present: A reconstruction of the memories of war and violence of former Congolese soldiers living in South Africa focused on the lives of former Congolese soldiers living as refugees in South Africa with a particular focus on how the change of status and new environments contributes to different discourses of war and violence.

Dostin’s areas of research include migration and displacement, militarization, violence and memory, food, health, and illness. He is also a reviewer for the African Security Review, the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development, and IGI Global publications.

Ingrid Joined UJ as a Professor in January 2018. Prior to that, she worked at the African Centre for Migration & Society at Wits University from 2005 -2017. Ingrid completed her PhD (psychology) at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. Before entering academia, Ingrid worked at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation as a senior researcher. Her research has been in the field of gender, violence and displacement. She has published in numerous international journals and is the co-editor of Gender and Migration: feminist interventions published by Zed Press; Handbook of International Feminisms: Perspectives on psychology, women, culture and rights published by Springer; Healing and Change in the City of Gold: Case studies of coping and support in Johannesburg published by Springer. She is the author of Gender, sexuality and migration in South Africa: Governing morality published by Palgrave.

Ingrid's early research focused on women's engagement with political transition and armed conflict in South Africa and the Great Lakes Region. Since then she has conducted research on critical perspectives on sex work and trafficking, claims brought on the basis of gender-based persecution in the asylum system, the tensions between political and domestic violence and gender mainstreaming in development work, and violence against foreigners.


military, armed forces, gender, soldiers, women, violence, DRC







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