Megan Bastick

'Military responses to sexual violence in armed conflict'


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  • Principal Supervisor: Professor Christine Bell
  • Assistant Supervisor: Dr Claire Duncanson


Sexual violence in armed conflict is high on the international political agenda, the subject of a series of UN Security Council resolutions and a British-led global campaign. Despite recurrent scandals regarding sexual abuse by peacekeepers, there is growing political pressure on armed forces to do more to respond to sexual violence – to protect civilians, to support victim assistance, perhaps even to document crimes and detain perpetrators.

For armed forces, responding to sexual violence amongst the civilian population requires new skills, doctrine, training and tactics. Some tentative good practice has been gathered, suggesting that female personnel might facilitate reporting of rape, and of particular tactical actions that can help to prevent sexual violence. However, skepticism has been expressed as to whether the use of armed forces is appropriate to combat sexual violence, pointing to the limitations of their resources, training and socialization. Moreover, mixed messages are disseminated as to whether armed forces’ response to sexual violence in armed conflict is governed by international humanitarian law (IHL), human rights, principles of peacekeeping or adherence to the Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security, leading to uncertainty as to the legal content of their obligations.

This research will analyse military operational responses to sexual violence in the civilian/host population in the doctrine, policy and practice of a number of European armed forces. Alongside these case studies, the research will analyse doctrinal, training and operational developments within the United Nations (UN) and NATO.