My research focuses primarily on conflict-related sexual violence and on social transformations in war. This includes women’s civil society mobilization but also the content and implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) framework. In addition, I have an interest in gender-based and political violence, international responses to armed conflict, women’s rights, and in gender in international relations and in a comparative perspective more broadly.
My research combines cross-national statistical analysis, qualitative fieldwork and analysis, and survey experiments.
Manuscripts Under Review
More Than a Weapon of War: Civil Society Perspectives on Sexual Violence in Conflict (Revise & Resubmit)
Abstract: In international policy circles, conflict-related sexual violence is commonly viewed as a weapon of war, a framing that researchers have criticized as overly simplistic. Feminist scholars in particular caution that the weapon of war framing decontextualizes sexual violence in conflict from the structural factors of gender inequality that underpin its perpetration. In light of these tensions, how do politically relevant local actors perceive the nature and the origins of conflict-related sexual violence? Civil society organizations often actively confront conflict-related sexual violence on the ground. Better understanding how their understandings of this violence align or clash with the globally dominant weapon of war narratives therefore has important policy implications. Interviews with representatives of Colombian women’s organizations and victims’ associations reveal that these civil society activists predominantly view conflict-related sexual violence as the result of patriarchal structures. The mobilized women perceive sexual violence as a very gendered violence that exists on a continuum extending through peace, the everyday and war, and which the presence of arms exacerbates. Strategic sexual violence, too, is understood to ultimately have its basis in patriarchal structures. The findings expose a disconnect between the globally dominant weapon of war understanding that is decontextualized from structural factors and a local approach to CRSV that establishes clear linkages to societal gender inequality.
Work in Progress
Sexual Violence and Gendered Protection: The Salience of Traditional Gender Norms (with Mattias Agerberg)
Abstract: At a time of MeToo and counter-movements warning of the dangers of “gender ideology,” gender is both salient and politicized. While equality between men and women and a rethinking of gender roles are globally on the rise, traditional gender norms continue to have traction. One particularly salient notion is that of the female victim in need of (masculinist) protection, which also restricts the conceived space for women’s agency. In this paper, we explore the salience of such traditional gender norms in settings of armed conflict. Here, we argue, norms of women’s agency and women’s protection are in particular tension, as the unprecedented global awareness of conflict-related sexual violence has spotlighted women’s victimization. Both the protection of civilians and gender issues in armed conflict have come to be closely associated with sexual violence. We designed a vignette experiment to test our theoretical expectations that 1) people are more likely to support intervention in conflicts with high prevalence of sexual violence and 2) global norms of women’s participation are more likely to be activated in conflicts with prevalent sexual violence. We carried out equivalent survey experiments in the United States, the United Kingdom and Sweden. We find support for our hypotheses, with some variation across the three countries. Generally, Western publics are more likely to perceive women as victims rather than agents in conflict, and they support intervention at higher levels in armed conflicts with widespread sexual violence.
Challenges in Confronting Sexual Violence in Colombia
Abstract: Based on interviews carried out in 2018, this paper examines what norms, structures and practices stand in the way of civil society and government attempts to confront sexual violence in Colombia, whether perpetrated in the armed conflict or in the “private” sphere. The focus is on how patriarchal norms permeating formal and informal institutions perpetuate gendered power differentials, impede the pursuit of justice and exacerbate the challenges of addressing the physical and psychological consequences this violence has for its victims. The paper reflects critically on the different ways and arenas in which patriarchal norms are salient and reproduced, including through the conscious and unconscious complicity of women, accentuating the role of power in these processes.
Is Free Trade Good for Women? How Trade Agreements Affect Women’s Rights (with Evgeny Postnikov)
Abstract: The effect of trade liberalization on women’s rights has been hotly contested. Some argue that free trade has an adverse impact on women in developing countries by undermining public services, eroding social protection and deepening gender inequalities. Others claim that free trade generates economic growth, creates economic opportunities and has many positive spillover effects on women’s social and economic participation. We argue that the potentially negative effect of trade liberalization on women can be offset by trade policies designed to reduce economic and social gender imbalances. Conditionality in North-South preferential trade agreements (PTAs) containing certain labor and human rights provisions, such as gender equality chapters and core labor standards, can lead to a race to the top in women’s rights protection in the developing world. We assess this claim empirically using statistical evidence drawn from the analysis of data on PTAs and their gender clauses. Our study is the first to establish an empirical link between PTA design and women’s rights, suggesting new policies are needed to better balance economic globalization with social goals in the current protectionist era.