Do civil wars unfold differently in states where there is a higher degree of gender equality compared to those with low levels of gender equality? Violence against women is a well-documented weapon of war, and women are disproportionally vulnerable during wartime in a variety of ways. Furthermore, women's economic, social, and political empowerment has been internationally championed as a way to reduce the likelihood of both the outbreak of new civil wars and the breakdown of post-war peace. But, there has been little research into how existing gender disparities affect the ways in which civil wars are fought when they do break out. This project addresses this gap in the literature and focuses specifically on the relationship between gender equality and civilian atrocities during civil wars.
Working paper, under review.
Does domestic gender inequality affect the degree to which combatant parties target civilian populations during civil wars? Extant research suggests that gender inequality is associated with an increased risk for both international war and civil war. Scholars have proposed that gendered structural inequality provides a foundational justification for societal violence that facilitates rebellion. Alternatively (or additionally), the gender gap in policy preferences may mean that peaceful conflict resolution is more likely when women hold more political power. The literature on the causes of violence in civil war, however, is explicitly non-gendered (unlike the literature on the consequences). Using cross-national, dyadic data on one- sided violence during civil war, I examine the effect of social, economic, and political gender equality on atrocities committed by both governments and rebel groups. I find a particularly strong link between political equality and violence committed by both sides. But, surprisingly, the effect is in opposite directions. Controlling for other factors, governments are less likely to commit atrocities against civilians when there is greater political equality. Rebel groups, however, are more likely to commit atrocities when there is greater political equality. I suggest that this is due to a backlash effect targeting women’s political power.