Women Strapped with Bombs: “Victim-Perpetrators” In The Boko Haram Insurgency – A Case of Gender Persecution

Document Type : Original Article


American University Washington College of Law


The surge in the use of female suicide bombers by Boko Haram since 2014 has received heightened attention, particularly after the abduction of 276 girls in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria on 14 April 2014. It is believed that the abducted schoolgirls are coerced along with many other women and young girls into being suicide bombers by Boko Haram for Boko Haram.  This phenomenon, therefore, creates a binary status for many of these suicide bombers – ‘victim-perpetrators’ under International Criminal Law. As victims - a target group of gender persecution, as a crime against humanity. As perpetrators - unwilling cocoons in the Boko Haram insurgency. Because the International Criminal Court is saddled with the prosecution of those ‘most responsible’ for international crimes, it is doubtful that suicide bombers would be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court. This leaves prosecution of suicide bombers to domestic courts. But domestic prosecutions would have to look to International Criminal Law for the adoption of internationally recognized standards in prosecuting international crimes. This article is a modest contribution to the field of gender and International Criminal Law. This piece offers an analysis of the crime of gender persecution. It interrogates the question of criminal responsibility or lack thereof for the women coerced into being Persone Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (PBIEDs.)


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