The perpetration of sexual violence during armed conflict is a widely understudied topic in conflict studies, which has more recently gained the attention of scholars and researchers leading to a release of literature. Today, scholars are trying to understand why some conflicts experience higher frequencies of sexual violence than others, or why some armed groups perpetrate higher levels of sexual violence than other groups. However, there is a lack of literature discussing the role of hypersexualized propaganda with the intent to dehumanize a target ethnic group, and how this may lead to higher frequencies of sexual violence during ethnic conflicts or genocides. This study aims to holistically understand the impact of propaganda images released prior to a genocide, and how these cartoons influenced higher levels of sexual violence. I hypothesize that, when societies are deeply divided along ethnic lines, and have a long history of division (ex: through colonialism/neo-colonialism), the more that division is implemented through a gendered lens, and is done by devaluing and dehumanizing women, the more likely it will be that when conflict erupts, higher frequencies of sexual violence will be experienced. To evaluate my hypothesis, I utilize a single-case study approach to explore the Rwandan genocide, analyzing propaganda cartoons from extremist pro-Hutu magazines released prior to the ethnic conflict. Although this study finds commonalities between the hypersexualized rhetoric created through cartoon propaganda, and the actualities that occurred during the genocide, it cannot be concluded that extremist propaganda cartoons caused high levels of sexual violence in the genocide in Rwanda.


Leiby, Michele

Second Advisor

Duval, Marion


French and Francophone Studies; Political Science

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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