Beyond Bullets and Ballots : A theoretical inquiry on sexualised election violence

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: How can we understand sexual violence in electoral conflict? This study probes into this question through critically examining, structuring and assessing the status of election-related violence literature. Scholars within the interdisciplinary field that explores conflict-related sexual violence have given rise to important debates and insights on the dynamics and drivers of the prevalence of sexual violence in war, yet, such developments have remained absent in understandings of election-related violence. Little is thus known about the dynamics of sexual violence in electoral competition. Insofar as sexual violence has been brought into limelight within election-related violence literature, it has been accounted for as an element embedded in gendered dimensions of violence; either within a narrative of being a gendered ‘Weapon of Politics’, or part of a narrative on women being victims. Through questioning the underlying distinctions between war and peace within political science research, this study argues that election-related sexual violence is co-produced by various actors and motives, on multiple dimensions and through interlockings of analytical levels. Highlighting elements such as (1) strategy, motivation and intent; (2) the role of gender and men as victims; (3) localised and decentralised violence and; (4) sexual violence as altering bargaining powers, transnationality and as ‘shameful’ violence; the argument is illustrated in relation to the violence surrounding Kenya’s 2007 election.

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