Responding to Sexual Violence: Women’s Mobilization in War

TitleResponding to Sexual Violence: Women’s Mobilization in War
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsKreft, Anne-Kathrin
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Date Published10/2018

Gender scholars show that women in situations of civil war have an impressive record of agency in the social and political spheres. Civilian women’s political mobilization during conflict includes active involvement in civil society organizations, such as nongovernmental organizations or social movements, and public articulation of grievances – in political protest, for example. Existing explanations of women’s political mobilization during conflict emphasize the role of demographic imbalances opening up spaces for women. This article proposes a complementary driving factor: women mobilize politically in response to the collective threat that conflict-related sexual violence constitutes to women as a group. Coming to understand sexual violence as a violent manifestation of a patriarchal culture and gender inequalities, women mobilize in response to this violence and around a broader range of women’s issues with the goal of transforming sociopolitical conditions. A case study of Colombia drawing on qualitative interviews illustrates the causal mechanism of collective threat framing in women’s collective mobilization around conflict-related sexual violence. Cross-national statistical analyses lend support to the macro-level implications of the theoretical framework and reveal a positive association between high prevalence of conflict-related rape on the one hand and women’s protest activity and linkages to international women’s nongovernmental organizations on the other.

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