Women as War Criminals: Gender, Agency, and Justice, Izabela Steflja and Jessica Trisko Darden

Reviewed by Shirley Graham



What do Lynndie England, Hoda Muthana, Biljana Plavši?, and Pauline Nyiramasuhuko have in common? They are all women who committed war crimes and used their gender in their defense. In this fascinating book, Izabela Steflja and Jessica Trisko Darden take a deep dive into these four women's cases, dating from 1993 to 2020, and compare them with those of men tried in the same trial or in similar circumstances.

Women as War Criminals asks why violent women are marginalized in political discourse. The authors argue that it is because they do not resonate with cultural ideas of femininity and because of the fear that any focus on women will pull attention away from men, who make up the majority of violent actors. Instead, the dominant narrative is that women are peacemakers, while women's multiple roles in conflict are ignored. However, the book's focus on women perpetrators does not diminish the important and well-established fact that women are among the greatest victims of armed conflict.

In legal testimony, interviews, and other studies of the formal justice system, women war criminals are often depicted as naive, controlled by men, having no choice, or apolitical, with gender and/or age used to absolve women of their agency and reduce their punishment. For example, the Nazi women who cried during the Nuremberg Trials were

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