How (Wo)Men Rebel

Exploring the effect of gender equality on nonviolent and armed conflict onset

Authored by: Susanne Schaftenaar

Categories: Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: Nonviolent Resistance, Violent Extremism
Year: 2017
Citation: Schaftenaar, Susanne. “How (Wo)Men Rebel: Exploring the Effect of Gender Equality on Nonviolent and Armed Conflict Onset.” Journal of Peace Research 54, no. 6 (November 2017): 762–76. doi:10.1177/0022343317722699.

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Previous studies find a strong relationship between armed conflict and gender equality, but only compare armed conflict to no armed conflict onset. However, opposition movements use different means to challenge governments, such as nonviolent or armed strategies. This study explores this variation and poses the question: How does the level of gender equality affect the onset of nonviolent campaigns and armed conflicts? It makes two contributions. First, I quantitatively test the impact of gender equality on different forms of conflict onset, and second, I propose a comprehensive gendered mobilization argument based on strategic choice theory. Nonviolent campaigns rely on mass participation, and the nonviolent conflict literature claims that they are open to a wider array of participants, including women, compared to armed conflicts. I argue that gender norms affect movements’ expectations of mobilization (mass or limited) as well as conflict norms (nonviolent or violent) in society, and subsequently, the choice of conflict strategy. I hypothesize that higher levels of gender equality, measured by fertility rate and female-to-male primary school enrolment ratio, increase the likelihood of nonviolent campaign onset, compared to both armed and no campaign onset. This study analyses country-year data from the UCDP and NAVCO datasets between 1961 and 2006 and finds that increases in gender equality are, on average, associated with an increased likelihood of nonviolent conflict onset.