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Female Perpetrators

'I Acted like a Man’: Exploring Female Ex-Insurgents’ Narratives on Nigeria’s Oil Insurgency


Oriola, Temitope. 2016. “‘I Acted like a Man’: Exploring Female Ex-Insurgents’ Narratives on Nigeria’s Oil Insurgency.” Review of African Political Economy 43 (149): 451–69. doi:10.1080/03056244.2016.1182013.

Author: Temitope Oriola


English Abstract:
This paper explores how a small sample of female ex-insurgents make sense of their engagement in Nigeria’s oil insurgency. The study is informed by three key questions: How did Delta women join the insurgency? Why did they join? How do they frame their participation? The paper analyses the prevalence of a masculinising rhetoric among participants. The majority of participants view their roles in the insurgency as antithetical to their gender. The implications of these findings are explored. Overall, the paper contributes to the growing body of work on women’s engagement in armed conflict as perpetrators rather than victims of violence.
French Abstract:
[« J’ai agi comme un homme » : l’étude des histoires des ex-insurgées sur l’insurrection liée au pétrole au Nigeria.] Cet article examine comment quelques ex-insurgées donnent du sens à leur engagement dans l’insurrection liée au pétrole au Nigéria. Cette étude tente de répondre à trois questions clés : Comment est-ce que les femmes du Delta ont rejoint l’insurrection? Pourquoi l’ont-elles rejoint? Comment est-ce qu’elles formulent leur participation? L’article analyse la prévalence d’une rhétorique masculinisante parmi les participants. La majorité des participants voit son rôle dans l’insurrection comme opposé à son genre. Les implications de ces résultats sont examinées. Dans l’ensemble, l’article contribue à la masse croissante de travail sur l’engagement des femmes dans les conflits armés, où elles sont considérées comme des responsables de la violence plutôt que comme des victimes.

Keywords: Niger Women, women and political violence, oil insurgency, Nigeria

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Extractive Industries, Gender, Women, Masculinity/ies, Female Perpetrators Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Nigeria

Year: 2016

Gender Trouble at Abu Ghraib?


Kaufman-Osborn, Timothy. 2005. “Gender Trouble at Abu Ghraib?” Politics & Gender 1 (4): 597-619.

Author: Timothy Kaufman-Osborn


This essay explores the controversy spawned by the release, in April, 2004, of the photo- graphs taken by U.S. military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Its particular concern is with photographs that depict American servicewomen engaged in various forms of abusive conduct against Iraqi prisoners. In its opening half, the essay examines and criticizes the responses to these photographs offered, first, by right-wing commentators and, second, by American feminists, most notably Barbara Ehrenreich. All read these photographs as a referendum on feminism and, more particularly, its commitment to the cause of gender equality; and all do so, I argue, on the basis of a naive understanding of gender. In its latter half, accordingly, the essay offers a more adequate understanding of gender, one loosely grounded in the work of Judith Butler and the concept of performativity. Referencing various official interrogation manuals, as well as the investigative reports released in the wake of this scandal, the essay employs this concept in offering a more adequate account of the gendered import of the deeds depicted in the Abu Ghraib photographs. It concludes by arguing that what is important about these photographs is neither whether the perpetrators of the exploitation they depict are male or female, nor whether the deeds they portray somehow compromise the feminist quest for gender equality. Rather, what is important are the multiple ways in which specifically gendered practices, which can be detached from the bodies they conventionally regulate, are deployed as elements within a more comprehensive network of technologies aimed at disciplining prisoners and so confirming their status as abject subjects of U.S. military power.

Topics: Combatants, Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Race, Sexual Violence, Female Perpetrators, SV against men

Year: 2005

Empire, Desire and Violence: A Queer Transnational Feminist Reading of the Prisoner ‘Abuse’ in Abu Ghraib and the Question of ‘Gender Equality'


Richter-Montpetit, Melanie. 2007. “Empire, Desire and Violence: A Queer Transnational Feminist Reading of the Prisoner ‘Abuse’ in Abu Ghraib and the Question of ‘Gender Equality.’” International Feminist Journal of Politics 9 (1): 38-59.

Author: Melanie Richter-Montpetit


Dominant discourses in the United States paint the acts of prisoner 'abuse' committed by US soldiers in Abu Ghraib in 2003 as either the obscene but exceptional example of some low-ranking soldiers gone mad, or as the direct result of the suspension of the rule of law in the global 'war on terror'. Alternatively, feminist theorist Barbara Ehrenreich suggests that the pictures depicting female soldiers torturing prisoners are both horrifying and a sign of 'gender equality'. This article departs from all three of these positions. I argue that the micro-level violences shown in the Abu Ghraib pictures are neither just aberrations nor a sign of gender equality. Rather they follow a pre-constructed heterosexed, racialized and gendered script that is firmly grounded in the colonial desires and practices of the larger social order and that underpins the hegemonic 'save civilization itself'-fantasy of the 'war on terror'. I explore how the participation of some of the US Empire's internal Others, namely White western women, may disrupt some of the social processes of normalization underpinning this colonial fantasy, but nevertheless serves to re/produce the identity and hegemony of the US Empire and its heterosexed, racialized and classed World (Dis)Order.

Keywords: Abu Ghraib, civilization, colonial, desires, Ehrenreich, Empire, fantasy, gender equality, militarized masculinity, orientalism, US, 'Whiteness'

Topics: Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Feminisms, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Race, Sexual Violence, Female Perpetrators, SV against men, Violence

Year: 2007

Side By Side -- Women, Peace and Security

"Jointly developed by the Australian Government's Australian Civil-Military Centre and UN Women, "Side by Side -- Women, Peace and Security" explores how the international community has and can meet its commitments on women, peace and security. The 30-minute documentary features an introduction by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as interviews with United Nations personnel, peacekeepers, mediators, humanitarian actors, policy makers and survivors of conflict."

Female Perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide


Brown, Sara E. 2014. “Female Perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 16 (3): 448–69. doi:10.1080/14616742.2013.788806.

Author: Sara E. Brown


This article explores and analyzes the role of women who exercised agency as perpetrators during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Genocide narratives traditionally cast women as victims, and many women did suffer horrific abuses and become victims of torture in Rwanda. However, this gender-based characterization of women is inaccurate and incomplete. After presenting a multidisciplinary body of literature relevant to female agency during genocide, this article explores three core questions related to female agency during the Rwandan genocide. It discusses how women were mobilized before and during the genocide, the specific actions of women who exercised agency and finally what happened to these women in the aftermath of the genocide. This article is based upon research that was gathered by the author and includes interviews of female perpetrators as well as victims and witnesses of direct violence committed by women. The article asserts that women played an active role in the Rwandan genocide but are often excluded from the dominant narrative. This article also addresses the implications of ignoring female perpetrators of genocide. It suggests that such an oversight may have a detrimental impact on the long-term peace and stability in post-genocide Rwanda.

Keywords: gender studies, genocide, perpetrators, Rwanda, women

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Ethnic/Communal Wars, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Genocide, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual Violence, Female Perpetrators, Torture, Sexual Torture, Violence Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa Countries: Rwanda

Year: 2014

Victimisation of Female Suicide Bombers: The Case of Chechnya


Kemoklidze, Nino. 2009. “Victimisation of Female Suicide Bombers: The Case of Chechnya.” Caucasian Review of International Affairs 3 (2): 181-88.

Author: Nino Kemoklidze


While arguing about why women fight, many believe that these women are yet other victims in the hands of ruthless men, while others emphasize the seriousness of a particular conflict where even women are driven towards taking up arms, seen as a last resort in the eyes of many. Few, if any, confront this ever present “myth” of victimisation of women who choose radical forms of fighting. This paper will challenge this viewpoint and, based on the case of the so-called Black Widows of Chechnya, will argue that women can take up roles other than that of a victim in the battlefields; and that they are capable of fighting for a purpose other than that of a personal tragedy and/or family bereavement.

Keywords: gender, violence, nationalism, female suicide bombers, Chechnya

Topics: Armed Conflict, Secessionist Wars, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Nationalism, Sexual Violence, Female Perpetrators, Violence Regions: Asia, Europe Countries: Russian Federation

Year: 2009

A Calamity in the Neighborhood: Women’s Participation in the Rwandan Genocide


Adler, Reva N., Cyanne E. Loyle, and Judith Globerman. 2007. “A Calamity in the Neighborhood: Women’s Participation in the Rwandan Genocide." Genocide Studies and Prevention 2 (3): 209-33.

Authors: Reva N. Adler, Cyanne E. Loyle, Judith Globerman


Although public-health-based violence-prevention trials have been successful in a variety of high-risk settings, no study has addressed the prevention of genocide, a form of population-based catastrophic violence. In addition, little is known about women who participate in genocide, including women’s motivations for active participation in hands-on battery, assault, or murder. In order to explain why women assaulted or murdered targeted victims during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, we interviewed ten Rwandan female genocide perpetrators living in prisons and communities in six Rwandan provinces in 2005. Respondents’ narratives reveal two distinct pictures of life in Rwanda, separated by an abrupt transition: Life prior to 6 April 1994 and Life during the 1994 genocide (6 April–15 July 1994). In addition, respondents described four experiential pressures that shaped their choices to participate in the 1994 genocide: (1) a disaster mentality; (2) fear of the new social order; (3) confusion or ambivalence about events on the ground; and (4) consonance and dissonance with gender roles. The unique combination of these factors that motivated each female genocide participant in Rwanda in 1994 would shift and evolve with new situations. These findings may have implications for understanding and preventing catastrophic violence in other high-risk jurisdictions.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Genocide, Sexual Violence, Female Perpetrators, Violence Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa Countries: Rwanda

Year: 2007

Women, brokerage and transnational organized crime. Empirical results from the Dutch Organized Crime Monitor


Kleemans, Edward R., Edwin W. Kruisbergen, and Ruud F. Kouwenberg. 2014. “Women, brokerage and transnational organized crime. Empirical results from the Dutch Organized Crime Monitor.” Trends in Organized Crime 17 (1-2): 16- 30.

Authors: Edward R. Kleemans, Edwin W. Kruisbergen, Ruud F. Kouwenberg


This paper analyzes the role of women in various types of transnational organized crime and tests the ‘gendered markets’ hypothesis by Zhang et al. (Criminology 45 (3):699-733 2007) for a wide cross-section of 150 cases from the Dutch Organized Crime Monitor. The main information sources for the Dutch Organized Crime Monitor are closed Dutch police investigations into criminal groups, often spanning a period of several years. Following four data sweeps, a wide cross-section of 150 cases was collected about various forms of organized crime (period 1994-2011): ‘traditional’ drug trafficking cases (cocaine, heroin, and cannabis), but also other—less frequently prioritized—phenomena such as synthetic drugs (production and export), human smuggling, human trafficking, and fraud and money laundering. The paper discusses several important theoretical perspectives from the organized crime literature: the gendered markets hypothesis; the social embeddedness of (transnational) organized crime: and the idea of brokerage. Furthermore, empirical data are presented on how often women play a (prominent) role in different types of criminal activities and which roles they play. These findings are related to the ‘gendered markets’ hypothesis and alternative explanations. Further qualitative analysis is presented on the transnational aspects which can be discerned in the studied cases: transnational marriage and transnational relationships; language and mediation; and migration and legal status. Finally, the main conclusions are discussed as well as their theoretical and empirical relevance.

Keywords: women, crime, organized crime, brokerage, social networks, theory



“In 102 cases, women were involved as suspects. Overall, we gained data on 247 women, their roles, and the context of the criminal groups and the criminal activities in which they were involved. This means that11% of all suspects (N= 2295) were female. Many of the criminal activities concerned various forms of ‘transit crime’: international smuggling activities, such as drug trafficking, smuggling illegal immigrants, human trafficking for sexual exploitation, arms trafficking, trafficking in stolen vehicles, and other transnational illegal activities, such as money laundering, fraud, and evasion of taxes (e.g. cigarette smuggling, oil fraud, and Value Added Tax fraud).” (8)

For human trafficking for sexual exploitation, 21% of the suspects were female. This is the largest percentage in the study. (9)

“Women are not absent and women play also other roles than victim roles, but still the picture of ‘men trafficking women’ prevails.” (11)

Topics: Corruption, Economies, Gender, Women, Sexual Violence, Female Perpetrators, Male Perpetrators, Trafficking, Drug Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Sex Trafficking

Year: 2014

Female Combatants and the Perpetration of Violence: War Time Rape in the Sierra Leone Civil War


Cohen, Dara Kay. 2013. “Female Combatants and the Perpetration of Violence: War Time Rape in the Sierra Leone Civil War.” World Politics 65 (3): 383–415.

Author: Dara Kay Cohen


Much of the current scholarship on wartime violence, including studies of the combatants themselves, assumes that women are victims and men are perpetrators. However, there is an increasing awareness that women in armed groups may be active fighters who function as more than just cooks, cleaners, and sexual slaves. In this article, the author focuses on the involvement of female fighters in a form of violence that is commonly thought to be perpetrated only by men: the wartime rape of noncombatants. Using original interviews with ex-combatants and newly available survey data, she finds that in the Sierra Leone civil war, female combatants were participants in the widespread conflict-related violence, including gang rape. A growing body of evidence from other conflicts suggests that Sierra Leone is not an anomaly and that women likely engage in conflict-related violence, including sexual violence, more often than is currently believed. Many standard interpretations of wartime rape are undermined by the participation of female perpetrators. To explain the involvement of women in wartime rape, the author argues that women in armed group units face similar pressure to that faced by their male counterparts to participate in gang rape. The study has broad implications for future avenues of research on wartime violence, as well as for policy.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Men, Sexual Violence, Female Perpetrators, Male Perpetrators, Rape, SV against men, SV against women, Violence Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2013


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