Anne-Kathrin Kreft, Ph.D.
My research focuses primarily on conflict-related sexual violence and on social transformations in war. This includes women’s civil society mobilization but also the content and implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) framework. In addition, I have an interest in gender-based and political violence, international responses to armed conflict, women’s rights, and in gender in international relations and in a comparative perspective more broadly.
Conflict Processes & War
Gender and Politics
UNSCR 1325, WPS
Countries of Interest
My research focuses on gender and conflict, sexual and gender-based violence, and on women's rights in a comparative perspective. In my PhD dissertation I examine how and why women mobilize politically in response to wartime sexual violence, combining cross-national statistical analysis and qualitative interviews in Colombia. My dissertation also explores what a growing global response to sexual violence in conflict means for the implementation of women’s participation norms anchored in United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 and the Women, Peace and Security framework. Other completed and ongoing research projects scrutinize the relationship between authoritarian institutions and women's rights, public opinion towards intervention in armed conflict, and the successes and challenges of civil society activism against sexual violence in Colombia. My research combines cross-national statistical analysis, qualitative interviews and fieldwork, and surveys/ survey experiments.
In international policy circles, conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) is commonly viewed as a weapon of war, a framing that researchers have criticized as overly simplistic. Feminist scholars in particular caution that the ‘weapon of war’ framing decontextualizes sexual violence in conflict from the structural factors of gender inequality that underpin its perpetration. In light of these tensions, how do politically relevant local actors perceive the nature and the origins of conflict-related sexual violence? Civil society organizations often actively confront conflict-related sexual violence on the ground. A better understanding of how their perceptions of this violence align or clash with the globally dominant ‘weapon of war’ narratives therefore has important policy implications. Interviews with representatives of Colombian women's organizations and victims' associations reveal that these civil society activists predominantly view conflict-related sexual violence as the result of patriarchal structures. The mobilized women perceive sexual violence as a very gendered violence that exists on a continuum extending through peace, the everyday and war, and which the presence of arms exacerbates. Strategic sexual violence, too, is understood to ultimately have its basis in patriarchal structures. The findings expose a disconnect between the globally dominant ‘weapon of war’ understanding that is decontextualized from structural factors and a local approach to CRSV that establishes clear linkages to societal gender inequality.
(with Mattias Agerberg) Sexual violence (SV) in conflict is increasingly politicized at both the international and domestic levels. Where SV in conflict is prevalent, we argue international actors perceive gender to be salient and push for a gendered response. Simultaneously, women mobilize politically in response to the threat to their security that conflict-related SV constitutes, making demands for greater representation in politics with the goal of improving societal conditions for themselves. Jointly, we theorize the pressures from above and below push governments in conflict-affected states toward adopting gender policies. We test this theoretical framework in the case of gender quota adoption. We find that states with prevalent wartime SV indeed adopt gender quotas sooner and at higher rates than states experiencing other civil conflicts and than states experiencing no conflict in the same period. These gender quotas, we further show, are not mere window dressing but actually increase women’s legislative representation.
(with Daniela Donno) While dictatorships perform worse than democracies in respect for most human rights, a large number of autocracies have prioritized the advancement of women’s rights. We present a theory of authoritarian rights provision that focuses on the incentives for dictatorships to secure women’s loyalty, and we identify the particular capacity of institutionalized party-based regimes to supply—and capitalize from—women’s rights policies. Analyzing a comprehensive sample of authoritarian regimes from 1963 to 2009, we find that party-based regimes are associated with greater economic and political rights for women irrespective of whether they hold multiparty elections. A comparative exploration of authoritarian Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya sheds further light on these findings and examines alternative explanations. Our account of women’s rights as a tool of autocratic party coalition-building contrasts with the provision of civil and associational rights—so-called “coordination goods”—which represents a concession to the opposition and tends to accompany liberalization.
Gender scholars show that women in situations of civil war have an impressive record of agency in the social and political spheres. Civilian women’s political mobilization during conflict includes active involvement in civil society organizations, such as nongovernmental organizations or social movements, and public articulation of grievances – in political protest, for example. Existing explanations of women’s political mobilization during conflict emphasize the role of demographic imbalances opening up spaces for women. This article proposes a complementary driving factor: women mobilize politically in response to the collective threat that conflict-related sexual violence constitutes to women as a group. Coming to understand sexual violence as a violent manifestation of a patriarchal culture and gender inequalities, women mobilize in response to this violence and around a broader range of women’s issues with the goal of transforming sociopolitical conditions. A case study of Colombia drawing on qualitative interviews illustrates the causal mechanism of collective threat framing in women’s collective mobilization around conflict-related sexual violence. Cross-national statistical analyses lend support to the macro-level implications of the theoretical framework and reveal a positive association between high prevalence of conflict-related rape on the one hand and women’s protest activity and linkages to international women’s nongovernmental organizations on the other.
In response to women’s frequent marginalization in conflict settings, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in 2000. It called for including a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations and for enhancing women’s participation in all aspects of post-conflict reconstruction. This article contributes to the empirical literature on the implementation of UNSCR 1325, examining the extent of gender mainstreaming in UN peacekeeping mandates. Situated in a theoretical framework of gradual norm cascades, it hypothesizes that UNSCR 1325 has increased gender content in mandates, but selectively so. Statistical analyses of an original dataset covering all 71 UN peacekeeping operations from 1948 until 2014 reveal that gender-mainstreamed mandates are more likely in conflicts with high levels of sexual violence. In designing gendered peacekeeping mandates, actors thus appear to be responsive to cues about the salience of a very visible, albeit narrow, gender issue emanating from the respective conflict rather than being guided by the universalist norms of women’s participation entrenched in UNSCR 1325.
(with Ann Towns and Birgitta Niklasson) In: Measuring Women’s Political Empowerment across the Globe: Strategies, Challenges and Future Research. Palgrave, p. 187-205.
I was interviewed for a piece on women's political representation in autocracies, discussing insights from an article published in Comparative Political Studies together with Daniela Donno
I wrote a blog post about the significance of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for civil society activism against conflict-related sexual violence
Daniela Donno and I wrote a blog post for the Monkey Cage in which we discuss how autocratic regimes may strengthen their power by actively expanding women's rights, based on our article in Comparative Political Studies
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