The protection of civilians from human rights violations has increasingly become a global priority. The wars in Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s, and the development of the Women, Peace and Security framework have placed conflict-related sexual violence on the global protection agenda. Prior research has found that international attention to, and intervention in, conflicts is in fact more likely when there are reports of widespread sexual violence, regardless of overall conflict intensity. This article theorizes and empirically examines the micro-level underpinnings of these patterns. We hypothesize that individuals are more likely to support military intervention in conflicts with prevalent sexual violence as opposed to other types of conflict violence. The reason lies in gendered protection norms, based in benevolent sexism, that continue to have traction also in Western societies. In equivalent survey experiments carried out in the United States, the United Kingdom and Sweden, we find that support for international intervention is highest in sexual violence conflicts. In the United States and the United Kingdom, the responsibility to protect and gendered perceptions of victimhood mediate this effect. A follow-up experiment in the United States provides further evidence of a gendered protection norm as a core mechanism driving our results.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.