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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Why Do Women Rebel? Understanding State Repression and Female Participation in Sri Lanka


The case of thousands of female combatants participating in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a nationalist movement which fought for an independent state in Sri Lanka, is one of several where an analysis of the relationship between state repression and the nature of female participation is particularly relevant. I find that given pre-existing conditions of inequality (both social and gender), the identity of female combatants in the LTTE (a unique intersection of ethnicity and gender) were mobilized by multiple mechanisms, among which experiences of direct and indirect state repression were most likely to shape the nature of their eventual participation in the movement.

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