Explaining Sexual Violence in Conflict Situations: Preliminary Findings from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda and Sierra Leone


Gerecke, Megan. 2009. “Explaining Sexual Violence in Conflict Situations: Preliminary Findings from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.” Paper presented at the 50th Annual Conference of the International Studies Association, New York, February 15-18.

Author: Megan Gerecke


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.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Ethnicity, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Sexual Violence Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Rwanda, Sierra Leone

Year: 2009

© 2024 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.