We know much about the pathology of wartime sexual violence, not why and how armies and rebellions constrain rape, assault and sexual harassment. This seminar introduces an alternative approach: the theory of prevention using an assessment of gendered, social, institutional dimensions of different non-state armed groups. The seminar is based on research in Burundi, and preliminary information from actors in Uganda and South Africa.
Much of the literature whether academic, policy or journalism holds that when rape occurs frequently on the part of an armed organization, it is a strategy (or tactic or weapon) of war. But this presumption does not explain the well-documented variation in conflict-related rape. In particular, some cases of conflict-related rape are better understood as a practice: it has not been purposefully adopted as policy for group objectives at some level of command but is nonetheless tolerated by commanders and driven by social interactions among combatants.
Departing from principal agent models of political violence, Elisabeth J. Wood emphasizes the horizontal, social interactions between combatants to develop a typology of conflict-related rape that distinguishes between rape as a practice and as organizational policy.