The Varying Roles of the Female Combatant

Melissa Rary
Content Type
Working Paper
Center on Human Rights Education, University of Denver
While the idea of women as combatants in the US military is relatively new, some stories of women in war goes back to Greek myths of armies of goddesses at war. Still, this subject gets very little, if any, press in the news. Women are often seen as victims of war, but some women may also be perpetrators. Beyond simply fighting on the ground, Dara Cohen explores the idea of women as perpetrators of wartime sexual violence. She points out that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 41% of female sexual violence victims were victimized by females, as were 10% of male victims. She argues that within armed groups, women face many of the same pressures to commit similar forms of violence as their male counterparts. Women have been used historically in various roles during recruitment and combat, including being a nurse, cook, telephone operator, or journalist. Some conflicts have also seen a rise women used as a recruiting tool, or as wives, to young men joining forces. In the Second World War, the Soviet Union used female soldiers to encourage their male counterparts to join the forces. Of the 820,000 women who served in the Red Army, 15% of those were combatants. ISIS recruits young women in a similar way, promising them marriage to ISIS fighters and offering them a meaningful role in a big world. They are then used as mothers, wives, nurses, recruiters, and general supporters of ISIS.
Gender Issues, War, Feminism, Conflict
Political Geography
Global Focus