Ordering Bodies: The Relationship Between Women’s Participation in Rebellion and Sexual Violence in War – Hilary Matfess, Yale University ISWS Public Seminar Series
In her article of the same name, Hilary Matfess of Yale University articulates and tests a new theory about the relationship between women’s participation in rebel groups and rebels’ patterns of sexual violence, asserting that women in armed groups are associated with a greater likelihood of sexual violence, a wider repertoire of sexual violence, and a more widespread practice of sexual violence.
Hilary also asserts that this relationship is driven by the presence of women within rebel groups incentivizing the establishment of “regulatory sexual violence” (meaning policies and practices developed by armed groups in order to establish and maintain wartime hierarchies) and the socialization of women into practising and supporting sexual violence in order to maintain or advance their position within rebel groups. Unlike previous studies, this theory and quantitative assessment considers women’s participation in non-combat positions and the forms and prevalence of the rebels’ practice of sexual violence.
Hilary tests the predictions generated by this theory on a new dataset regarding women’s participation in non-combat positions in rebel groups, the Women’s Work in War dataset, or W3. This cross-national quantitative analysis validates this theory of wartime sexual violence, finding that women’s participation in both combat and non-combat positions increases the likelihood that rebels engage in any sexual violence, heightens the prevalence of this violence, and contributes to a wider repertoire of forms of sexual violence the rebels engage in. These findings are robust to the inclusion of measures of conflict duration, rebel ideology, women’s pre-conflict status, and whether the rebels practiced forced recruitment.
Hilary Matfess is a PhD candidate in Yale University’s Political Science Department and a 2020-2021 United States Institute for Peace (USIP) Peace Scholar Fellow. She also works as a Senior Research Associate at the Center for Global Impact.
In 2015, Hilary graduated with an MA in International Economics and African Studies from Johns Hopkins SAIS. Her research is at the intersection of security, gender and governance, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa, with field work conducted in Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, Uganda and Ethiopia.
Her work has been published in International Security, Security Studies, Stability, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism and African Studies Review. She has previously worked as a research analyst for the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), the National Defense University, and the Institute for Defense Analyses. As a freelance journalist, she has been published by Newsweek, IRIN and Foreign Affairs, among others. Her first book, Women and the War on Boko Haram, was published in 2017 with Zed Publishers.
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