четверг, 18 сентября 2014 г.

Sexual Violence and Rape against women in Armed Conflict and War

Knarik Mkrtchyan, Network Member, Armenia

“For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle,and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped…”
Zechariah 14:2[1]


The history of war-rape and sexual violence committed during the war is as long as the history of war itself. Yet there were constant failures both internationally and locally to consider this topic in earnest. Until the mid-20th century, there were no focus and no discussion on this issue at the international level. The problem was pushed to into the background. Those committed this crime were prosecuted and denounced very seldom. War-rape was viewed as a byproduct of war or armed conflict rather than a crime and infringement of the international humanitarian law (Brownmiller, 1975). But the constant growth of the data collected from the wars of the recent decades finally shed a light on the overall situation (Ward & March, 2006).

Between April and July 1994 in Rwanda the worst genocide ever happened in 20th century took 800,000 lives. During the genocide hundreds of thousands of women and girls were raped or were exposed to sexual violence and enslavement (de Brouwer, 2005). Although there is no written evidence of documents to rape or use sexual violenec as a type of weapon, evidence suggests that military and political leaders enlashed a wave of rape crimes by encouraging their soldiers to rape Tutsi women without making any effort to stop the massacres (Clark, 2009). Unlike many other conflicts taken place in recent decades, in Rwandan conflict the mass rapes had an organized nature due the propaganda, which significantly contributed in unleashing sexual violence against Tutsi women. Anne-Marie de Brouwer concludes that by taking into account the massive nature of war rape during the Rwandan genocide:

UN Special Rapporteur on Rwanda in his 1996 report estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 Rwandese women had been raped. The massacres against Rwandan women are considered as genocidal (Reid & Ruby, 2008), (Shaw, 2007).   The inferior status, which actually Congolese women have, was rooted in their indigenious system during the colonial era, yet it still prospers having its curtain negative influence on the women's overall situation (Dempster, 2002). The perception of women as subhumans, has caused them to be used as targets to ''attack'' in one of the most murderous  wars since World War II(Prendergast, 2009). According to the United Nations, the country has become ''the rape capital of the world'' claiming that more than 200,000 women were brutually raped (Broadcasting, 2010), yet it still remains one of the least presented and broadcasted issues.

Patricia Rosée has identified following categories of rape (quoted in Penn & Nardos, 2003, pp. 54-55):

Ø  Punitive rape: used to silence the victim or the community member and take over the control,
Ø  Status rape: used to show the differences of the social status, as well as to show who the master is and who the slave is and etc.,
Ø  Ceremonial rape: this is committed as a part of socially sanctioned ceremony,
Ø  Exchange rape: when sexual intercourses are used to bargain with goods and etc.,
Ø  Theft rape: individuals are involuntarily used as slaves, concubines, prostitutes and etc.,
Ø  Survival rape: young women start to have relationships with elder men to secure or obtain goods or services, which are required for their survival.

Thus, why are women raped during the armed conflict? In order to answer to this question we developed a list of reasons and those factors making women more vulnerable (Brownmiller, 1975):

·         Women are seen as those providing reproductiveness of the nation, thus by raping and causing pregnancy rapists want to change the identity of new generation,

·         Due the gender stereotypes and social stigma women are considered to be men's proprety, so by raping women the rapist wants to show that he owns the property of the enemy,

·         Gender inequality: in many communities inequal perception of men and women gives women inferior status because of which they are not equally represented in different spheres of social life. Their voices are not heard and their needs are not met. Thus, the problems, which women can face during armed conflicts are not addressed seriously leaving women with no effective protection during wartime.

·         This is a tactic of war: in some countries (for example Israel) women are obliged to serve in arm forces. Many countries give women the right to serve in army, nevertheless the biggest part of combatants are men. They are those having power to influence. During armed conflicts women, elderly people and children are those having no effective methods (weapon) to protect themselves. Hence, they are vulnerable and easily targeted.  

By the help of investigated materials and those various sources already cited in this work, the main motive-reasons of the rape are listed[2]. The list as follows (Benton, 2004, Brownmiller, 1975, Diken & Laustsen, 2005):

·         To incite fear: one of the best ways to take over the control can be done through intimidation. The fact of being raped or the fear of being raped can silence the person and the community and make them humble.
·         To confirm as well as to show one’s “dominancy”. Due the fact that women are considered to be men’s property the enemy can rape women to show the males and the whole ethnic group or community members that they can own their property, because they are the dominants.
·         To derogate. Many communities with a critical situation in terms of the war rape have very rooted gender stereotypes, which put females in an inferior condition compared with male. By raping women the enemy wants to derogate both the victim and the community she represents and due the stereotypes and social stigma this strategy works.
·         To spread sexually transmitted diseases. Quite often soldiers/others rape in order to transmit STDs to affect the growth of the further generations.
·         To displace certain ethnic group. In cases of mass rapes migration can be considered as the only salvation, yet the practice has already proved that during the migration and in migration camps displaced people become more vulnerable, because they do not receive enough protection[3].
·         To cause pregnancy. In patriarchal countries children are considered to represent their fathers’ ethnicity. So this can be used to “change” the ethnicity of the enemy.
·         To obtain various kinds of resources. The latter refers to the control of large-scale (territory, diamonds, gold and etc.), as well as small-scale resources (water, food, clothes and etc.).
·         Ethnic cleansing (Diken & Laustsen, 2005). Since the influence of the mass rape has an enormous physical and psychosocial influences it can totally destroy the moral and psychophysical system of the certain ethnic group. Due the lack of reconciliation mechanisms the situation gets even worse eventually leading to the destruction of the ethnic group or the community.      
·         To distort the general atmosphere. Because of the chaotic situation not only the enemy but also the representative of the same community can rape. The waves of rape can be unleashed deliberately by the enemy or those having certain goals. In this case even the rapist is used as a target. The final goal is the same; to distruct the community.
·         To punish. To rape in order to punish and show the others that the same thing can happen with them in the case of disobedience (Farwell, 2004). This reason is quite often used not only by combatants, but also by non-combatants as a result of the distorted atmosphere caused by the armed conflict or war.

Who rapes? Who is blamed for the situation? There is a need to admit that the vast majority of rapes are perpetrated by the armed groups or military forces to completely and utterly humiliate and take domination over the local population. Quite often armed groups use rapes to punish individuals, communities for having any relation with enemy or for sympathizing them. In Congolese case the violence was met by the side of different military actrors as well as by the members of local police (Pratt & Werchick, 2004). Hence, those bodies responsible for the security of the community commit crimes by theirselves totally paralyzing security system and the ability of civilians to receive proper protection (Cockburn, 1999).   

The use of sexual violence and rape as a mean to achieve something has been spread to the community level as well. This method is specifically used to punish. In their report M. Pratt and W. Leah bring about some examples of punitive rape committed by the civilians: a young girl was raped by the owner of mango tree for taking a fruit without asking permission (DRC). Another woman was killed in the field for picking potatoes without having permission (DRC). Community members can also rape in order to make the victim to merry with them; in order to preserve the family honor and their own honor the victims have to merry with the rapist.

Superstitions and fetishism are playing a role of a triger as well (Pratt & Werchick, 2004). Many combatants beleive that sex with postmenopausal or prepubescent women will give them a strenght or protect from injuries or death. There is another superstition, which claims that sex with very young children will cure them from STDs, especially from HIV/AIDS In many areas people have poor health conditions, constant lack of resources to live, and they believe that raping young girls will protect them from harm or improve their business.

The final question is: why is the rape being constantly utilized during the armed conflict as a weapon? The answer is really very simple: it is cheap, easily obtainable than any other type of weapon with very strong psychosocial and physical influences.

The mechanisms to overcome the problem must be comprehensive addressed to both local and international entities to effectively combat against this issue. If we want to have strong societies, we need to have strong and protected women with equally protected rights.









[1] You can find the full citation from the source as follows: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=zechariah%2014:2-14:2&version=ESV
[2] The list is not final; many other reasons concerning specific cases can be added.
[3] The lack of protection can have different reasons. Firstly, they can be connected with the inability to protect of those obliged to because of the lack of resources or the lack of will and etc.

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