Cross-Regional Trends in Female Terrorism

Authored by: Karla J. Cunningham

Categories: Humanitarian Emergencies, Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Violent Extremism
Region: No Region
Year: 2003
Citation: Cunningham, Karla J. "Cross-Regional Trends in Female Terrorism." Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 26, no. 3 (2003): 171-195.

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Worldwide, women have historically participated in terrorist groups but their low numbers and seemingly passive roles have undermined their credibility as terrorist actors for many observers. This analysis contends that female involvement with terrorist activity is widening ideologically, logistically, and regionally for several reasons: increasing contextual pressures (e.g., domestic/international enforcement, conflict, social dislocation) creates a mutually reinforcing process driving terrorist organizations to recruit women at the same time women’s motivations to join these groups increases; contextual pressures impact societal controls over women that may facilitate, if not necessitate, more overt political participation up to, and including, political violence; and operational imperatives often make female members highly effective actors for their organizations, inducing leaders toward “actor innovation” to gain strategic advantage against their adversary.