Introducing “Hidden Wars: Gendered Political Violence in Asia’s Civil Conflicts” by Sara E Davies and Jacqui True—a groundbreaking exploration into the intricate relationship between sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and structural gender inequality in Asia’s protracted conflicts.

SGBV has always been a part of warfare. From the harrowing testimonies of rape and sexual violence in historical events like the Rape of Nanjing to the modern-day struggles faced by women in conflict zones, to the experience of the Korean comfort women in World War II, and forced marriages and sexual slavery during the Cambodian genocide, SGBV has long been a grim reality of warfare. Despite decades of research, understanding the root causes and dynamics of this violence remains a challenge, especially in the context of Asia where underreporting is rampant and data scarcity prevails.

In “Hidden Wars,” Davies and True embark on a rigorous examination of three conflict-affected societies—Burma, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka—shedding light on the complex interplay between SGBV reporting, gender inequality, and political dynamics. Drawing from extensive field research and an original dataset, the authors reveal how entrenched gender norms, political power struggles, and limited data collection mechanisms contribute to the perpetuation of SGBV and the culture of silence surrounding it.

Through interviews with key stakeholders and a meticulous analysis of conflict dynamics, Davies and True unveil the stark realities of reporting constraints and impunity for SGBV perpetrators. They argue that addressing SGBV effectively requires not only tackling the structural inequalities that fuel it but also challenging the systemic barriers to reporting and accountability. They address the real-world limitations of data collection and argue that these constraints reinforce a culture of silence and impunity that perpetuates SGBV and permits governments to abrogate their responsibility for this violence.

“Hidden Wars” is more than just an academic study—it’s a call to action for policymakers, activists, and researchers to confront the hidden realities of gendered violence in conflict settings. By understanding the intricate nexus between gender inequality, political dynamics, and reporting silence, we can pave the way for meaningful change and create a future where SGBV has no place in armed conflict.


Sara E. Davies is Professor of International Relations and member of the Griffith Asia Institute at Griffith University, Australia and Deputy Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Elimination of Violence against Women (CEVAW). Jacqui True is Professor of International Relations at Monash University and Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Elimination of Violence against Women (CEVAW).