Sexual violence is a well-known phenomenon in armed conflicts. The international attention from scholars and policymakers has substantially expanded during the last decades, but until today a comprehensive understanding of the circumstances that generate this violence is absent. This causes difficulties in the policy rhetoric of the issue, as well as in the development of effective measures to prevent and combat conflict-related sexual violence in current conflicts.
This study aims to explore and identify circumstances related to the use of sexual violence by armed groups, and by state forces in particular. The overall purpose is to contribute to an understanding of why state forces commit sexual violence in some armed conflicts and not in others. An analytical framework is created based on existing theoretical concepts and explanations to the varying frequency of sexual violence. Based on this, five hypotheses of possible correlated conditions are created. These conditional factors are: 1) Rule of Law, 2) Other Violence, 3) Ethnic Conflict, 4) Gender Equality, and 5) International Support. The hypotheses are translated into macro-level variables that are systematically applied and compared between ten cases of armed conflicts, five of which have high levels of sexual violence committed by state forces, respectively five with no reports of sexual violence committed by state forces. This is done by a cross-national comparison using descriptive statistics. Four hypotheses are to a varying degree strengthened by this study and the result suggests that sexual violence committed by state forces is more likely to occur; in conflicts with low levels of rule of law; in ethnic conflicts; in conflicts with high levels of other violence, and; in absence of international support. The anticipation is that the results of this study will provide a platform for further conclusive research of casual factors to conflict-related sexual violence.