Explaining Sexual Violence in Conflict Situations

TitleExplaining Sexual Violence in Conflict Situations
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsGerecke, Megan
EditorSjoberg, Laura, and Sandra Via
Book TitleGender, War, and Militarism: Feminist Perspectives
PublisherPraeger Security International
CityWestport, CT

Theories of sexual violence are often derived from single case studies and their applicability to other conflicts rarely tested. Applying these theories comparatively has the potential to reveal gaps, overlaps and silences within them. In this vein, this study tests four theories of sexual violence across three well-documented cases – those of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. The theories addressed here focus on (1) male desire, opportunity and social breakdown, (2) gender inequality and identities, (3) gender and ethnicity, and (4) military organization and structure. This study casts doubt on gender inequalities’ previously undisputed centrality, as well as revealing important unexplained similarities in the patterns and forms of sexual violence. While the exceptional elements of ethnic sexual violence are explained efficiently by the traditional theory of gender and ethnicity, the similarities noted between ethnic and non-ethnic sexual violence suggest that more attention to military organization and structure is needed. Indeed, as is shown, faulty selection and inadequate unit-level group cohesion may have had an important role in facilitating sexual violence in these, and possibly other, cases.

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