No safety in numbers: political representation and political violence targeting women in Kenya

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Although quotas and other efforts to increase women’s political participation can ensure that the descriptive representation of women changes dramatically over a short period of time, it is not clear that social norms and political interests can shift as quickly as the distribution of legislative seats. Rather than being interpreted as a move toward a more pluralistic and representative form of government, the increased number of women in office may represent a threat to those who benefit from the status quo, and their resistance to losing their privilege may manifest in myriad forms of discrimination and violence. The relationship between political violence targeting women and increasing numbers of women in politics is often overlooked, despite the recognized potential for “backlash” against women’s empowerment initiatives. This article leverages data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) to explore the impact of increasing numbers of women in government on violence targeting women in Kenya. The findings show that rates of political violence targeting women have risen in tandem with the share of seats held by women in the lower chamber. That increasing women’s representation in political office may result in violent backlash against women generally should prompt greater attention from policymakers and academics to patriarchal resistance to women’s advancement.




Matfess, H., Kishi, R., & Berry, M. E. (2022). No safety in numbers: political representation and political violence targeting women in Kenya. International Feminist Journal of Politics.

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