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Women in WarThe Micro-processes of Mobilization in El Salvador$
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Jocelyn Viterna

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199843633

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199843633.001.0001

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Regulating Romance and Reproduction

Regulating Romance and Reproduction

(p.151) 7 Regulating Romance and Reproduction
Women in War

Jocelyn Viterna

Oxford University Press

Public and private spheres merged in the FMLN camps, requiring commanders to regulate guerrillas’ family lives as well as military actions. Because men significantly outnumbered women, rules promoting “respect” for women reduced internal conflicts over access to women’s bodies, and maintained the FMLN’s “good guy” image with the civilian population. Women guerrillas welcomed these rules, and the protection they provided from mistreatment or abuse. In contrast, men guerrillas reported that they respected a woman’s relationship with another man, more so than the woman herself. Unlike women, men often dismissed their guerrilla camp relationships as not serious. Ironically, then, the FMLN’s narrative of “respect” did little to challenge traditional gender attitudes. Most women guerrillas became pregnant in the camps, and many used the pregnancy as a reason to demobilize from guerrilla activism, even over the protestations of commanders. Men, in contrast, had no choice but to stay in the guerrillas or defect. Women’s greater flexibility in leaving FMLN camps during the war, in conjunction with men’s lack of commitment to wartime relationships, often left women as single moms, and without the benefits of a “demobilization” package, at the war’s end.

Keywords:   Sexuality, Pregnancy, Demobilization, Defection, Romance, Reproduction, FMLN, Guerrillas, Women, El Salvador

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