• Women's Health Research
Review Article

Terror, Targeting, and Pay: A Literature Review of Rape as a Weapon of War During the 1980-2003 Liberian Civil Conflict

Women's Health Research [2023; 4(2):5-26]
Received: 13 November 2023, Accepted: 02 December 2023, Published: 07 December 2023

According to Kaldor’s ‘new war’ theory, post-Cold War conflicts often involve higher levels of violence targeting civilians than in previous wars. The Liberian conflict (1980-2003) involved the systematic raping of female civilians. Yet an extensive qualitative literature review of media, formal reports, and top-cited digital scholarship indicates that armed forces used rape as a weapon of war for different purposes. Under the Doe regime, rape was often used for political suppression, territorial gain, and ethnic targeting of Americo-Liberians, Gio and Mano peoples. Comparatively, while the use of rape continued to be used for ethnic targeting of Krahn and Mandingo populations by Taylor’s forces, increasingly sexual violence was used for financial and resource exploitation, sexual slavery, supplemental payment for rebels, and hypermasculine bonding. By the Second Civil War, rape as a weapon became an endemic problem for nearly all Liberians. As state legitimacy over violence deteriorated, the division in insurgent factions escalated the level of depravity of human rights violations. This study highlights the importance of exploring in-depth the different shared experiences of war rape among different generations to understand its complexity and to adapt service provisions to individualized needs of survivors.

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