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Book project

Women’s Security After War: Protection and Punishment in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

Does violence against women increase in the aftermath of war? If so, why? Scholars and policy-makers have begun to ask questions about violence against women in the post-conflict space, yet complexities in measurement and a focus on outcomes (rather than mechanisms) leave essential questions unanswered. This book refines and scopes these questions to learn about whether, how, and why the social context that supports violence against women changes as a result of war.

The central argument of this book is that armed conflict fosters protective masculine norms that, in turn, affect how communities socially sanction or punish local crimes, including violence against women. Drawing insights from feminist theory, economics, social psychology and political science, the theory of protective masculine norms describes a process by which the gendered nature of protection and exigencies of community security lead communities to choose more severe punishment for public crimes deemed to threaten their communities. Protection tradeoffs, however, also lead people to choose less severe punishment for other “private” crimes.

I derive and examine the observable implications of this theory in the context of eastern DR Congo, a place where there are high levels of violence against women that has also been exposed to high levels of insecurity associated with armed violence in the distant and recent past. Chapter 1 lays the framework for the dissertation; describing the social nature of violence against women, processes of norm change, the research approach, and the derivation of protective masculine norms theory. Then, because protective masculine norms are broadly shared across societies, Chapter 2 investigates the nature of war, law, and punishment processes in eastern DR Congo to understand how the theory and findings travel to other contexts.

Chapter 3 motivates the theory of protective masculine norms by providing the empirical foundation for differentiating between forms of violence against women and placing them in a framework with other crimes. Contrary to prominent theories about empowerment, backlash and violent masculinities; armed conflict fails to affect preferences for punishing rape and domestic violence in a unidirectional way. Armed conflict increases how severely people prefer to punish rape and stealing, but decreases how severely people prefer to punish domestic violence. The qualitative evidence underscores the relevance of disaggregating crimes against women in terms of public community threats and private crimes.

Chapter 4 explicates the theory of protective masculine norms, grounding it in the literature and in the case. I examine the quantitative and descriptive evidence related to alternative hypotheses that may account for armed conflict’s effects: exposure to wartime crimes, security structures and demographic change. Finding little support for alternative theories, I describe the design of and results from qualitative work probing central propositions within protective masculine norms theory: Protection is gendered, people have shared memories of conflict incidents, this affects their subsequent behaviors, and internal crimes are related to perceived provision of protection.

Since sanctioning is a public act subject to group dynamics and norms, Chapter 5 examines the implications of protective masculine norms and the findings about preference change for how groups choose to punish crimes. Armed conflict may affect how groups choose to punish crimes by changing individual-level preferences, by changing group dynamics, neither, or both. I find that armed conflict affects group preferences primarly through individual-level preference change, underscoring the relevance of preference change for social sanctioning in the aftermath of war. The data also show that group dynamics make people’s preferences more extreme, suggesting the importance of norms to shaping preferences - a central tenet of the theory.

Chapter 6 discusses the emerging research agenda of protective masculine norms and its contributions. Questions remain about levels of violence against women after war. But, already protective masculine norms has begun to unify a formerly disparate set of findings emerging about armed conflict, domestic violence, and social and legal change.