A(nother) Dark Side of the Protection Racket: Targeting Women in Wars

Laura Sjoberg, Jessica Peet

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This article builds on feminist readings of war and conflict generally and of the civilian immunity principle specifically to argue that gender is crucial to the story of how and why civilians are intentionally targeted by belligerents. It demonstrates that civilian victimization is directly linked to the gendered logic of the immunity principle. Particularly, we contend that civilian victimization is a logical extension of wars justified by protecting women and children, and that ‘civilian’ in ‘civilian victimization’ is a proxy for women. We make this argument in several steps. First, we introduce the literature about civilian victimization, acknowledging both its insights and its blindness to gender analysis. Second, we use feminist work on gender, war, and militarism to present the case that civilian victimization in war is a product of gendered elements of the justificatory logics of war. We then provide examples of the gendered nature of civilian victimization (specifically targeting women in wars). The article concludes by arguing that seeing civilian victimization as a gendered phenomenon has important implications for theorizing war and conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-182
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Feminist Journal of Politics
Issue number2
Early online date20 May 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • gender
  • international relations
  • just war
  • protection racket
  • civilians
  • feminist IR
  • feminist security

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