Theses Master's

Women as Agents of Violent Extremism: Gender-based Violence as an Indicator of Insecurity and the Failures of the International Security Sector

Peltola, Larissa

Throughout history, women have taken part in extremist violence that has remarkably undermined the security of states globally. Women and girls are often the most dangerous, calculated, and lethal extremists, yet, traditional concepts of security have dismissed the role they play in armed extremist and terrorist groups, instead relegating them as passive victims rather than agents in their own right. Gender-based violence is present in every society and is exacerbated by the onset on armed conflict and other forms of instability.

This form of violence, committed by individuals as well as the State leaves a dangerous gap in women’s security in which women seek out safety and stability from extremist organizations. Security actors, international governing bodies, including the United Nations, and individual nation-states fail to consider and meaningfully address the range of insecurity women and girls experience globally, both before and during armed conflict, which leads them to make the active choice to abandon their traditional gender roles and join extremist groups.

The security sector at large must validate, rather than demonize extremist groups, and endeavor to fully understand what the opportunities, safety, and security they offer to women and girls. By exploring the limitations of the UN’s Women, Peace, and Security Agenda, examining the motivations of women in armed extremist groups, and comparing the cases of women’s participation in the LTTE and FSLN, this thesis endeavors to contribute to a gap in current security policy literature. This study concludes with recommendations on how to strengthen local, national, and global efforts in countering extremism while prioritizing gendered experiences.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Rajan, V.G. Julie
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
August 10, 2022