Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science

Major Professor

Brandon C. Prins

Committee Members

Krista Wiegand, Matt Buehler


There has been an increasing level of female participation as suicide bombers, driven primarily by groups understanding of strategic advantages when using women. First, considering the argument cultural shifts have allowed women more opportunities to participate is shown to be faulty as it only explains participation in secular and domestic organizations, failing to consider increasing rise in religious and international organizations, as well as the time lag between male and female participation in suicide campaigns. The strategic argument is capable of explaining the time lag and participation in any group type because it frames the decision as a cost-benefit analysis. The primary benefits which have been driving the increase in female participation include additional publicity and psychological effects following the attacks, as well as an additional ease in access to targets when compared to male attackers. Two trends that supported the strategic argument were female participation is greatest in areas of high restriction against women by the state, as well as women preferring belt bomb weapon types. Additionally, women were used very selectively in regions that were openly against female rights and education. The increase in female participation is driven by a strategic cost-benefit analysis conducted by the group, rather than individual opportunities offered to women.

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