Gender and conflict; conflict-related sexual violence; social transformations in war; women’s mobilization; UNSCR 1325 and Women, Peace and Security framework; women’s rights; global (gender) norms
My research combines cross-national statistical analysis, qualitative fieldwork, and survey experiments.
Dissertation: Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict: Threat, Mobilization and Gender Norms
What are the implications of the politicization of conflict-related sexual violence, as a highly gendered violence, for women’s agency in conflict settings? My dissertation approaches this question from different perspectives, based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. In brief, my findings indicate that conflict-related sexual violence makes gender salient in both domestic and international arenas, as a result of which women’s agency may be amplified. First, I show that women mobilize in response to the collective threat that conflict-related sexual violence constitutes to them as women. Qualitative interviews with representatives of women’s organizations and victims’ associations in Colombia reveal that patriarchal structures and societally entrenched gender inequality are at the heart of mobilized women’s understanding of this violence. An examination of United Nations peace operation mandates reveals further that gender content, including a commitment to women’s participation, is higher when sexual violence is widespread in the respective conflict. Likewise, countries experiencing a conflict with prevalent sexual violence adopt legislative gender quotas sooner and at higher levels than other countries.
While women’s civil society mobilization in response to conflict-related sexual violence broadens out to incorporate a more comprehensive and holistic perspective of gender inequalities in society, the international response signifies a narrowing in of the global Women, Peace and Security framework on the singular issue of conflict-related sexual violence. The results are encouraging in that they reveal the previously overlooked nexus between women’s victimization in sexual violence and women’s political agency, but they also expose the long road yet ahead for gender equality norms.
Peer-reviewed journal articles
Responding to Sexual Violence: Women’s Mobilization in War. 2019. Journal of Peace Research 56:2, p. 220-233. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022343318800361
Authoritarian Institutions and Women’s Rights (with Daniela Donno). 2019. Comparative Political Studies, 52:5, p. 720-753. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0010414018797954
The Gender Mainstreaming Gap: Security Council Resolution 1325 and UN Peacekeeping Mandates. 2017. International Peacekeeping, 24:1, p. 132-158. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13533312.2016.1195267
The Empowerment of Women in Diplomacy. With Ann Towns and Birgitta Niklasson. 2017. In Measuring Women’s Political Empowerment across the Globe: Strategies, Challenges and Future Research, eds. Amy Alexander, Catherine Bolzendahl and Farida Jalalzai. Palgrave, p. 187-205.
I am part of the GenDip research program at the University of Gothenburg.
“The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize is a tribute to activists against sexual violence in conflict”. December 2018. Political Violence @ a Glance. http://politicalviolenceataglance.org/2018/12/13/the-2018-nobel-peace-prize-is-a-tribute-to-activists-against-sexual-violence-in-conflict/
“Fighting sexual violence in war: Context matters”. December 2018. US Army War College War Room. https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/sexual-violence-in-war/
“Sometimes autocrats strengthen their power by expanding women’s rights. Here’s how that works.” (with Daniela Donno). November 2018. Washington Post: The Monkey Cage. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/11/23/sometimes-autocrats-strengthen-their-power-by-expanding-womens-rights-heres-how-that-works/
Gendered Conflict, Gendered Outcomes: The Politicization of Sexual Violence and Quota Adoption (with Mattias Agerberg). Revise & Resubmit.
Abstract: Sexual violence in conflict is increasingly politicized at both the international and domestic levels. Where sexual violence in conflict is prevalent, we argue, international actors perceive gender to be salient and push for a gendered response. Simultaneously, women mobilize politically in response to the threat to their security that conflict-related sexual violence constitutes, making demands for greater representation in politics with the goal of improving societal conditions for themselves. Jointly, we theorize, the pressures from above and below push governments in conflict-affected states towards adopting gender policies. We test this theoretical framework in the case of gender quota adoption. We find that states with prevalent wartime sexual violence indeed adopt gender quotas sooner and at higher rates than states experiencing other civil conflicts and than states experiencing no conflict in the same period. These gender quotas, we further show, are not mere window dressing, but actually increase women’s legislative representation.
Understanding Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: Bringing Patriarchy Back In
Abstract: Conflict-related sexual violence is commonly viewed as a weapon of war, a framing that scholars have criticized as overly simplistic. Feminist scholars further caution that decontextualizing sexual violence as a product of war disregards the underpinning structural factors. In light of these tensions, how do women mobilized in civil society – as politically relevant actors and sources of expertise – perceive the nature and origins of conflict-related sexual violence? A thematic analysis of interviews with representatives of Colombian women’s organizations and victims’ associations reveals the need to bring patriarchy (back) into the discussion of conflict-related sexual violence. The mobilized women perceive sexual violence as a very gendered violence, which targets women as women to assert male dominance and which exists on a continuum extending through the everyday and war, time and place, and to other kinds of violence against women. In war, armed actors capitalize on this gendered nature of sexual violence and the fear it generates to control or dominate women or entire communities. The findings suggest that the strategic use of sexual violence cannot, as all too often happens, be divorced from its patriarchal underpinnings. The paper concludes with conceptualizing the interplay of conflict dynamics and patriarchal structures.
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.