The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice's new report, “A Decade Lost: Locating Gender in U.S. Counter-Terrorism,” analyzes what it says are the detrimental effects of the U.S. government’s counterterrorism actions on the rights of both women and sexual minorities. The first global study of its kind, the 163-page report is the product of more than three years of primary and secondary research encompassing interviews, workshops, and other fact-finding efforts.

The report, produced by CHRGJ staff with the help of student researchers, asserts that certain U.S. counterterrorism endeavors have inadvertently led to the curtailment of women’s rights; for instance, increased overall marginalization of Muslim communities has pressured Muslim women in particular to keep silent. “A Decade Lost” also argues that the government has used the rights of women and sexual minorities as bartering tools, looking the other way so as not to endanger cooperative counterterrorism efforts with foreign regimes that fail to honor their people’s rights. Further, the authors say, aspects of the U.S. narratives of terrorism and counterterrorism “have both mobilized and reinforced stereotypes around men, women and sexual minorities.”

“Far from making good on its promise to the world’s women, the U.S. government has bartered away women’s rights for short-term security gains,” said Jayne Huckerby, CHRGJ’s research director and the project director of the report. “From anti-terror cuts in aid to Somalia to negotiating with the Taliban in Afghanistan, it is women and sexual minorities who suffer first.”

Among the report’s key findings: development assistance to prevent extremism in young men neglects women and girls; anti-terrorist finance laws block critical resources from reaching organizations for women and for lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, and intersex individuals; and immigration restrictions harm victims of trafficking, terrorism, and anti-gay violence in Iraq. Recommendations include the Obama administration's making public both its policy on development's role in countering violent extremism and its guidelines for engaging with communities in the U.S. to prevent extremism.

“The U.S. government is working at cross purposes in its counterterrorism strategy,” said Huckerby. “On the one hand, it says that ensuring women’s equality is a matter of national security, while on the other it de-prioritizes development assistance for women and girls and cuts off funding to women’s rights organizations that are on the front lines against violent extremism in their communities. When the U.S. squeezes women between terror and counter-terror, no one is safer.”

Posted on July 22, 2011