Age, Sex, and the Crime of Genocide

Hollie Nyseth Brehm, Ohio State University
Christopher Uggen, University of Minnesota
Jean-Damascène Gasanabo, Rwandan National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide

Does genocide follow the well-established age-crime curve and the sex distribution common to other crimes? Or does it depart from these long-standing empirical patterns? We address these questions with gacaca court data from Rwanda - the largest genocide database ever collected. Three types of prosecutions are considered: (1) planning, organizing, or supervising the genocide; (2) killings or other serious physical assaults; and, (3) looting or other offenses against property. We examine the age and sex distributions in these groups and compare them to distributions for analogous criminal offenses. The sex distribution of genocide participants parallels that of other crimes. Consistent with classic criminological research, we find that participation in genocide declines with age. Consistent with genocide scholarship, however, we find an older peak age of offending (34) among perpetrators. We interpret these differences in light of the life course expectations of adult citizens under conditions of mass violence.

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Presented in Session 99: Demography of Crime