Transforming the 'Perpetrator' into 'Victim': The Effect of Gendering Violence on the Legal and Practical Responses to Women's Political Violence

Australian Journal of Gender & Law, Vol.1 (2010)

40 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2015

See all articles by Sabrina Gilani

Sabrina Gilani

Sussex Law School, University of Sussex

Date Written: July 01, 2010


A great deal of international effort has been devoted to the issue of women's rights. This has culminated in a growing number of legal declarations and conventions in which States have pledged their sincerity to addressing and opposing incidents of violence against women; it has also resulted in significant developments amongst non-governmental organisations, focused on alleviating the plight of women internationally, and ensuring the protection of women's human rights. There has been extensive research dedicated to understanding the causes and effects of gendered violence, such as rape, genocide, and trafficking, and a plethora of evidence has been amassed with respect to outlining, supporting, proving and chronicling violence committed against women's bodies and minds. Indeed, when it comes to acknowledging and confirming women's status as 'victims' in violence, the international community faces no shortage of examples. It is clear that women's as victims in violence has become cemented in not only our perceptions, but also in international legal instruments, as well as judicial and State practice. However, this conception of women's eternal victimisation becomes extremely problematic in those situations where women are clearly not the victims of violence, but rather its perpetrators. It is during these incidents that the international community experiences great difficulty in reconciling its image of women as victims of violence with the realisation that women can be, and are, as capable of brutality as men.

This article exposes the connection between social perception and international legal practice, and does so within the context of women's involvement in internationalised examples of political violence. By unraveling and examining the threads of testimonies, assumptions, and observations that interweave in our popular accounts of women‟s political violence, it is possible to assemble a more thorough picture of how violent women (and the havoc they sometimes instigate) are commonly perceived. In addition, and more remarkably, this assemblage of narratives -- extracted from various academic, media and literary sources -- illustrate the permanence and influence of these perceptions not only in how we conceptualise women's engagement in violent behaviour, but also how we legally and publicly manage and respond to such conduct.

Suggested Citation

Gilani, Sabrina, Transforming the 'Perpetrator' into 'Victim': The Effect of Gendering Violence on the Legal and Practical Responses to Women's Political Violence (July 01, 2010). Australian Journal of Gender & Law, Vol.1 (2010), Available at SSRN:

Sabrina Gilani (Contact Author)

Sussex Law School, University of Sussex ( email )

Brighton BN1 9QN
United Kingdom


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