Causes of Wartime Rape: Does the perpetrator perspective matter?

Stream: Conflict-related Sexual Violence
Date: Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Time: 1.00 pm – 2.45 pm


This paper investigates the causes of wartime rape as described by non-state violent actors. It uses the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sierra Leone as a paradigmatic case for analysing different 'types' of conflict related sexual violence and goes inside the rebel group and its internal organisational dynamics to understand how and why rape became widespread during the civil war. It draws on over 200 interviews with former members of the RUF and other armed groups – both men and women, civilians and fighters – to understand experiences of wartime violence in their own words. It finds, unexpectedly, that rape was explicitly forbidden and harshly punished in the RUF, despite becoming pervasive. This forms the basis for investigating the practical and theoretical implications of engaging with the perpetrator perspective. What does it say for prevention and intervention policies? What does it imply for justice: restorative justice for the victims, transitional justice for the communities, and ultimately, rehabilitative justice for the perpetrators? Is anything to be gained, practically speaking, by engaging with the internal logics and rationales of rebellion that enable violence when reconstructing a post-conflict peace?


Zoe Marks (Presenter), Univerisity of Edinburgh
Zoe Marks is a Chancellor’s Fellow and Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on conflict and civil war, armed groups, gender relations, post-conflict development and politics in sub-Saharan Africa. Her most recent work focuses on the internal dynamics of African rebellion, and on sexual violence and women’s experiences in wartime.