SEATTLE, Washington — In many situations, women of all ages are the first to experience violent acts of extremism. Extremist groups understand that using women instead of men can give them a tactical advantage. For example, women are less likely to be suspected or search than men. Understanding the magnitude of this issue, Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL-21), Steve Chabot (R-OH-01), Joe Wilson (R-SC-02), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07), Lee Zeldin (R-NY-01) and Bill Keating (D-MA-09) put together the Women and Countering Violent Extremism Act.
Women Involved in Terrorism
Terrorist groups everywhere take advantage of innocent civilians to execute their plans, typically as suicide bombers. In 2019, UNICEF completed a study of bomb attacks across Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad. The data was alarming. From 2014 to 2016, 18 percent of all suicide bombers were women. In fact, the number of female suicide bombers increased from four to 22 between 2013 and 2018.
The number of women involved in acts of terrorism has also increased. More than 6,000 women joined ISIL in Syria and Iraq between 2013 and 2019. More than 4,500 of these women are traveling to these areas from all over the world. There are many political, economical and psychological factors that could influence women to join voluntarily. However, many women are coerced through enticing social media propaganda.
The Women and Countering Violent Extremism Act
The Women and Countering Violent Extremism Act is a bipartisan plan to improve peacebuilding efforts and counterterrorism by focusing on women. Increasing the participation from the United States in efforts against violent extremism is vital. Representatives introduced the bill on International Women’s Day in 2019. The Act accomplishes a lot.
It calls for assistance to support women-led and women’s empowerment civil society organizations to work on countering violent extremism and terrorism. The bill increases training opportunities in Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) programs. Furthermore, it directs the State Department to seek to double the number of women trained in Antiterrorism Assistance programs.
In addition, it encourages foreign countries to include women’s participation in their own Antiterrorism Assistance programs. The bill authorizes the Defense Department, State Department and USAID to research the intersection of women and counterterrorism. Finally, it requires the State Department to create annual Country Reports on Terrorism to address gender-specific drivers of radicalization/recruitment strategies in at least five countries.
Decreasing Acts of Terrorism
What leaders are starting to realize is that an increase in women empowerment and gender equality has a positive effect on countering extremism.” This is why the Women and Countering Violent Extremism Act is so important. It not only addresses the needs of women who are trapped in war-torn areas but also the need to prevent women from joining in acts of terrorism. Women are in a unique position to prevent other women from falling into propaganda traps.
By following these six points, the United States is determined to fight terrorism across the world. In conjunction with the Women, Peace and Security Act, the Women and Countering Violent Extremism Act acknowledges women’s roles in violent extremism and promotes participation in the United States’s plan on counterterrorism. Efforts like these have shown to be effective globally. According to the Global Terrorism Index in 2019, total deaths from terrorism are now down by 52 percent from their peak in 2014. With this being said, however, there is still a long way to go to completely eradicate extremism and promote counterterrorism.
– Srihita Adabala