Political violence against women is increasing worldwide, UT researchers find

Kevin Lokuwaduge

Womens’ increasing demands for equal rights have been met across the globe with widespread political violence, according to a new report by UT researchers.

The number of events featuring political violence against women in the first quarter of 2019 was twice as many as reported in the first quarter of 2018, according to new data released by UT’s Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law and the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).

“We identified politically violent event types over the past two decades and then coded those events further,” said Anne Clary, assistant director of the Strauss Center. “The victims had to be comprised entirely of women or more majority women (to be included in the data).”

While not much analysis on the actual data has been done yet, the researchers have recognized some trends. The types of attacks vary, but nonsexual attacks targeting women are the most common form of violence targeting women, according to the research.

“One thing we noticed is that political demonstrations featuring women are increasing,” Clary said. “And that’s not just (increased reporting) that’s actually happening. For the most part, these are very peaceful demonstrations, but they tend to be met with more violence by state actors than protests and demonstrations not featuring women.”

The researchers’ data is unique in the scope of its categorization of widespread political violence against women, said Roudabeh Kishi, research director for ACLED.

“This is the first time there has been widespread data collection across regions — regardless of (the) time period, who the victim is — capturing various forms of physical violence,” Kishi said. “Anecdotally, there has been so much discussion around this type of targeting, yet no systematic data resource existed to allow for testing hypothesis around the topic.”

Tatiana Guevara, a student coder who helped on the project, said categorizing the type of violence to potentially help outside studies was important to the project.

“You can have an event that’s categorized as violence against civilians, but that violence can be a number of different things,” said UT alumna Guevara, who graduated in 2019. “One example … was a categorization that was remote violence and that could’ve been anything from a land mine to a drone strike.”

A combination of data sets, alongside the data collected by the Strauss Center, would help in analysis of political violence against women, Kishi said.

“The data could also be used in conjunction with other data to look at the effects of various factors, such as gender quotas or increased representation, on these violent trends,” Kishi said. “The hope is that findings from such analysis can be used by policy makers … to help lower such violence.” 
While some user guides have been put out by ACLED to help understand the data, Clary is working on making the data more accessible and clearer to the average user.

“I think gender violence in general hasn’t been reported on for a really long time and people, organizations and researchers are paying more attention to it now and reporting on it,” Clary said. “I think the more reporting and more assessment we have of it, the more we can get the fuller picture of just how great of an issue it is and the different ways to tackle it.”