The Rambo Effect: The Impact of Gender on Misconduct among Security Force Personnel using Experimental Survey Evidence from Four Countries


Thursday, December 3, 2020, 12:00pm to 12:45pm


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Dr. Sabrina Karim | Assistant Professor in the department of Government, Caplan Faculty Fellow, Cornell University

Under what conditions do individual security personnel engage in abuse of authority?  Building on work that shows that gender and masculinity affect conflict behavior among states, we posit that primes that trigger masculinity as well as beliefs about gender affect individual soldiers' or police officers' attitudes about appropriate behavior.  When individuals are forced to think about their own masculine identities and/or when they hold certain beliefs about gender roles and masculine identity, they may be more likely to sanction misconduct.  Using original survey experiments and original survey data from four country's security forces---police in Zambia, military in Ghana, military and police in Uruguay, and police and gendamerie Senegal, we find that priming personnel to think about gender leads to a decrease in believing taboo behavior was serious.  Moreover, those who held rigid views about gender roles were more prone to escalate a security situation, were less likely to believe that taboo behavior was serious, and were less likely to report colleagues that engage in taboo behavior. Additionally, respondents with highly masculinized views were more likely to escalate security situations and less likely to report colleagues' taboo behavior. 


Sabrina Karim is an Assistant Professor in the department of Government. Her research focuses on conflict and peace processes, particularly state building in the aftermath of civil war.  Specifically, she studies international involvement in security assistance to post-conflict states, gender reforms in peacekeeping and domestic security sectors, and the relationship between gender and violence. She is currently working on a book manuscript entitled, When Peace Makes States: How International Security Sector Assistance Shapes Post-Conflict State BuildingShe is the co-author of Equal Opportunity Peacekeeping: Women, Peace, and Security in Post-Conflict Countries (Oxford University Press, 2017).  The book was the winner of the Conflict Research Studies Best Book Prize for 2017 and the American Political Science Association Conflict Processes Best Book Award for 2018.  Her work has appeared in the American Political Science ReviewInternational Organization, The British Journal of Political Science, The Journal of Peace Research, International Interactions, World Development, and Conflict Management and Peace Science. She recently received a grant from the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance to conduct an eight-country assessment of women’s barriers and opportunities to join police, military, and UN peacekeeping missions.