Violence Begets Violence: Armed conflict and domestic sexual violence in Sub-Saharan Africa


Year: 2016 HiCN Working Paper No. 233

While the study of the causes of civil conflict is a well-established sub-discipline in the conflict literature, less is known about how political violence affects society. Although the majority of the direct victims of war are men, women face more insidious challenges, such as difficulty in providing for families and coping with sexual violence. The consequences of a conflict in terms of sexual violence are not limited to the abuses performed by conflict actors, nor are they limited to the period when the conflict was active. Drawing on psychological theories, this paper argues that armed conflict can have negative consequences for sexual violence in the private sphere. Combining subnational data on armed conflict events with individual-level data on partner abuse from DHS surveys in 17 Sub-Saharan African countries for a total of 95,913 women aged 15-49, I analyse the impact of conflict intensity on intimate partner sexual violence (IPSV). Individual-level analyses show that there is an independent, significant effect of armed conflict intensity in the home region of the respondent as regards her risk of experiencing IPSV. This result is robust even when controlling for factors such as childhood exposure to parent violence and the husband’s alcohol consumption.

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