Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and Rebel Group Fragmentation

Authored by: Robert Ulrich Nagel and Austin C. Doctor

Categories: Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: National Security Forces and Armed Groups, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV)
Year: 2020
Citation: Nagel, Robert Ulrich, and Austin C. Doctor. “Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and Rebel Group Fragmentation.” Journal of Conflict Resolution, (January 2020). doi:10.1177/0022002719899443.

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Austin C. Doctor and GIWPS’ Dr. Robert Ulrich Nagel explore to what extent sexual violence influences rebel group fragmentation. A substantial body of research explores wartime rape as a cohesion-building mechanism following forced recruitment. However, the relationship between sexual violence and broader organizational structural integrity has not been systematically tested. Our study on the effects of sexual violence on rebel group fragmentation provides this test. We argue that sexual violence increases cohesion at the battalion level but increases the risk of fragmentation of the broader organization because lieutenants are more likely to split from organizations if they are confident that their subordinate battalions are cohesive and will follow them. We test this argument on a global sample of 105 rebel organizations active between 1989 and 2014. The results provide robust support for the argument showing sexual violence increases the probability of fragmentation by a factor of six. This presents a crucial contribution to our understanding of sexual violence and rebel group fragmentation.