Sexual war violence is a contemporary, prevalent and brutal weapon of war. Most research in this area focuses exclusively on the experiences of the female victims, and the motivations and rationalizations of the perpetrators are largely omitted from inquiry. To the extent that their experiences are addressed, the literature tends to resort to essentialist explanations according to which the perpetrators are evil, mentally ill and predisposed to engage in such reprehensible actions. I reject this abnormal, psychopath theory of sexual war violence perpetrators. I contend that a perpetrator of sexual violence is not born a rapist or perpetrator, s/he becomes one. It follows that without acknowledging and examining the motivations and rationalizations of those who rape or sexually violate in wars, the task of developing appropriate and effective preventive measures remains an impossible undertaking. Thus, this thesis aims at generating knowledge on perpetrators of sexual war violence. I focus on perpetrators of sexual violence in the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) conflict out of consideration to available documentation, and due to my previous engagement in studies of victims of sexual violence in this war. Through a qualitative analysis of transcripts from court proceedings in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in which the accused were convicted for sexual war violence, and an analysis of four interviews with perpetrators from the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina made available in the literature on sexual war violence, I answer the following research questions:
Why did soldier perpetrators of sexual violence during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina opt for this particular form of violence? Which arguments emerge from the empirical material at hand?
The purpose of this thesis is to understand why some soldiers during the war in BiH became perpetrators of sexual war violence. Both the literature on sexual war violence and my empirical analysis suggest that misogyny, heterosexism and xenophobia are important war rape enabling factors. Further, and based on similarities between the examined cases I found that there were five typical perpetrator identities that repeatedly manifested themselves, and which captured all variants of explanations for the individual perpetrators’ participation in sexual war violence that emerged from the analysis of the empirical material: ‘The Soldier Idealist’ raped or sexually violated because he believed it was a means to achieve his ideal of a perfect soldier; ‘The Competitor’ raped or sexually violated because of the strong masculine competitive environment that war created in general and that male military camaraderie was characterized with in particular – for him it appears that rape was a way to do masculinity; ‘The Conformist’ raped or sexually violated because his peers did, and because he did not have the courage to refuse to participate or prevent it from happening; ‘The Opportunist’ raped or sexually violated because the misogynist and xenophobic prevailing attitudes made him consider rape or sexual violence as a desirable opportunity; and ‘The Survivor’ raped because his life depended on it. The arguments associated to each perpetrator identity reveal discursive practices through which perpetrators of sexual war violence in the BiH war were constructed, and sexual exploitations legitimated. Every perpetrator may have many ‘perpetrator identities’.Discursive practices and identity ideals are socially constructed and therefore changeable. To the extent my findings are transferable across times and conflicts, the categorized explanations may help target, visualize and conceptualize the development of preventive measures.