Why do some rebel groups commit acts of sexual violence, while others do not? : A qualitative study on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Abstract: Why do some rebel groups commit acts of sexual violence, while others do not? This thesis investigates the variation in the strategic use of sexual violence by rebel groups in armed conflict. The main argument is that strategic sexual violence should be less prevalent in legitimacy-seeking rebel groups’ repertoire of violence, as such groups aim to gain legitimacy from international and national communities. Through a structured and focused comparison study, the two cases under investigation are FARC, who showcases a high prevalence of strategic use of sexual violence, and LTTE, who does not. The independent variable is thus legitimacy-seeking characteristics, which more specifically is examined through observation of the rebel groups’ engagement in political affairs, whether the group has secessionist goals and the groups’ relations to compliance-positive actors. The dependent variable is strategic use of sexual violence, operationalised by examining how the forms of sexual abuses and the targeting of victims varies. The findings support some aspects of the theoretical framework and hypothesis. The most significant findings concern whether a rebel groups has secessionist goals, as well as their engagement in political affairs, and these specific aspects deserve further enquiry. LTTE displays medium-strong legitimacy-seeking characteristics, significantly as the group has clear secessionist goals, an influential political wing and a coherent political vision. FARC displays weak-medium legitimacy-seeking characteristics. The thesis contributes with novel insight on the variation across rebel groups regarding the use of sexual violence, and also combines the research on rebel compliance and sexual violence. This thesis calls for more research on the strategic motivations of rebel groups in armed conflict. Lastly, this thesis underscores the necessity for practitioners and the international community to urge rebel groups to comply with the norms of international law.
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