Why Rape? Perpetrator, Punishment and Social Narratives

Led by Inger Skjelsbæk
Jan 2009 - Dec 2012

The focus in this project is to study the male perpetration of sexual violence in war. The focus will be on the male perpetrators themselves and how they view their actions in hindsight and in light of their punishment. By extension, the project will also focus on the ways in which male perpetrators of sexual violence are situated and perceived within a supranational legal context and the perpetrators’ reasoning for committing acts of sexual violence in the war setting.

The empirical focus is on male perpetrators of sexual violence during the Bosnian war from 1992-1995, and more specifically the 28 perpetrators who have been sentenced in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The overarching aim will accordingly be to classify a body of empirical data - primarily court records and interviews – in light of current social psychological and gender theories. In order to study this overarching theme, it is imperative to consider how social narratives and individual identity construction interact with the discourses of gender and memories of the Bosnian war at large. The primary research methods will be literature studies and interviews. The project will investigate:

  • The ways in which crimes of sexual violence are narrated within the ICTY hearings;
  • The ways in which legal experts, and others working at the ICTY, have experienced working with sexual violence male offenders within a supranational criminal context;
  • How a group of men sentenced for sexual violence within the ICTY regard their actions and  punishment after having received their sentences.

The primary output of this project will be a monograph for international publication with the title Why Rape?  The project will start in January 2009 and end in December 2012.

Research Groups


Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Skjelsbæk, Inger (2012) Responsibility to Protect or Prevent? Victims and Perpetrators of Sexual Violence Crimes in Armed Conflicts, Global Responsibility to Protect 4(2): 154–171.
Skjelsbæk, Inger (2009) Traditions and Transitions: Perceptions of 'Good Womanhood' Among Twenty Bosnian Focus Group Participants, International Feminist Journal of Politics 11(3): 392–411.

Book Chapter

Skjelsbæk, Inger (2012) Conceptualizing Sexual Violence Perpetrators in War, in Bergsmo, Morten; Alf Butenschøn Skre; & Elisabeth J. Wood, eds, Understanding and Proving International Sex Crimes. Beijing: Torkel Opsahl Academic EPublisher (495–509).

Popular Article

Skjelsbæk, Inger & Kristian Berg Harpviken (2011) Gledelig Fredspris [A Peace Prize to Celebrate], Dagbladet, 7 October.
Skjelsbæk, Inger (2011) Kvinners kropp som slagmark [Women's Bodies as Battlefields], UNICEF Magasinet, 1 June.
Skjelsbæk, Inger (2009) Bare Beskyttelse? [Only Protection?], Dagbladet, 6 October.