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Foreign Military Intervention and Women's Rights

  • Economics
  • Law
  • Political Science


A large body of scholarly work has been devoted to the possible consequences of foreign military intervention for the target state. This literature, however, tends to be state-centric and mostly neglects the insight from gender-specific theoretical and empirical perspectives. The purpose of this article is to examine the extent to which military intervention affects women's rights. It is argued that unilateral interventions are prone to diminishing women's status by encouraging the persistence or creation of repressive regimes and contributing to political disorder in the target state. If the use of armed forces ever helps or causes no damage to women's well-being, it will likely be during interventions led by intergovernmental organizations (IGOs). This is because IGO interventions are unlikely to protect or support an authoritarian, patriarchal political system. Furthermore, such multilateral missions will increase international awareness of women's status along with other human rights issues in the target society, thereby creating more pressure on the government to enforce women's rights. To empirically substantiate these arguments, three different indicators that tap socio-economic and political aspects of women's status are used, including the indices of women's economic, political, and social rights from the Cingranelli-Richards database. The results indicate that while women's political and economic status suffer most during unilateral US interventions, IGO interventions are likely to have a positive influence on women's political rights. Non-US unilateral interventions, on the other hand, are unlikely to cause any major change in women's status. Finally, military interventions in general have no major statistically significant impact on women's social rights.

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