Rape has been a weapon of war for centuries.
History tells us of the losses of men, the damage done to infrastructure, the burning and looting of cities. But is it not the case that it is often more dangerous to be a woman in war (or should we say a female, as it is very often young girls who become victims of these atrocities) than to be a soldier?
Just looking back at the 20th Century one can see the systematic nature in which rape has been used as a weapon of war. The systematic rape of women in Bosnia, the estimated 200,000 women raped during the battle for Bangladeshi independence in 1971, the Japanese rapes during the 1937 occupation of Nanking. The act itself is abhorrent enough when pursued merely for the spoils of war and for sexual gratification. When fully considered though, the evil nature is both upsetting and sickening.
“Weapon” can be defined as: 1.) A thing designed or used for inflicting bodily harm or physical damage. 2.) A means of gaining an advantage…in a conflict or contest. In this sense, rape truly is a weapon of war. Rape is often used in ethnic conflicts as a way for attackers to perpetuate their social control and redraw ethnic boundaries (Gita Sahgal, Amnesty International). As women are the reproducers of a community, rape is used by the enemy to ensure the birth of a baby that is part “theirs” in ethnicity. Indeed, in the Bosnian conflict of the early 1990s, “Systematic rape was used as part of the strategy of ethnic cleansing…Women were raped so they could give birth to a Serbian baby.” (Medecins Sans Frontieres).
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a country that has become synonymous with the use of rape as a weapon of war. A recent article in Time Magazine covers this topic in depth and is something you must read but here are a few choice facts from it:
- U.N. Special Representative Margot Wallstrom has called Congo the “rape capital of the world,” and a 2011 study in the American Journal of Public Health estimated 48 women are raped every hour in the country.
- Town elders registered 60 cases of rape in the four days that followed the government troops’ arrival, but Bulumbe (a doctor for rape victims) estimates 70 more rape victims have not come forward. Most emerge only when there are medical complications. Bulumbe’s wife has just attended the funeral of an 80-year-old woman who died after allegedly being raped by three soldiers.
- Mulindo (then 17 years old) was at home when soldiers came. Her mother and father refused to open the door so the soldiers shot off the lock. Seven soldiers entered and bound her father at the wrists. Then, she says, as her father wept, two men took turns raping her while three more raped her mother.
In a speech on 3 weeks ago, William Hague stated that, “Each generation faces its own challenges, and each can shape our world for the better. Our generation has the opportunity, and the responsibility, to confront the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war.” (Read the full speech here)
But will we?
Just doin’ ma duty,
Old Bushel Britches x