Cohen 2013 Combatants

Title Information

Author: Dara Kay Cohen

Title: Female Combatants and the Perpetration of Violence

Subtitle: Wartime Rape in the Sierra Leone Civil War

Journal: World Politics

Volume: 65

Issue: 3

Year: July 2013

Pages: 383-415

ISSN: 0043-8871 – Find a Library: WordCat | eISSN: 1086-3338 – Find a Library: WordCat

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century, 21st Century | Sierra Leonean History | Offenders: Women; Types: Wartime Rape / Sierra Leone Civil War

Full Text

Link: Cambridge Journals Online [Restricted Access]

Additional Information

Author: Dara Kay Cohen, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Abstract: »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.« (Source: World Politics)


  I. Wartime Rape and Female Combatants (p. 388)
    Traditional Perspective (p. 389)
    Substitution Argument (p. 390)
    Selection Argument (p. 391)
    Combatant Socialization (p. 391)
  II. Data, Methods, and Background (p. 394)
    Sources of Data (p. 394)
    Female Fighters in the Sierra Leone Civil War (1991-2002) (p. 396)
    Patterns of Rape in Sierra Leone (p. 396)
    Patterns among Perpetrators of Rape (p. 397)
  III. Evaluating the Evidence: Causes of Female Perpetration of Wartime Rape (p. 397)
    Traditional Perspective (p. 397)
    Substitution (p. 401)
    Selection (p. 402)
    Combatant Socialization (p. 403)
    Women Soldiers versus "Females Associated with the War" (p. 405)
    Competing Mechanisms (p. 406)
  IV. Conclusion (p. 409)
  References (p. 411)

Wikipedia: Sierra Leone Civil War, War rape

Added: July 27, 2013 | Last updated: May 17, 2014