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Posts Tagged ‘war’

Unfortunately I was not able to attend this class (November 9th). I am not sure what policy presentations happened in the class, so I will focus this journal entry on another topic. In Working With Women Surviving Sexual Violence I, we watched a film that looked at the war in Bosnia (1992 – 1995), focussing specifically on the issue of using rape as a weapon of war.

rape as a weapon of war

When people talk about war, they invoke images of men, of guns and explosives, or tanks and armour, and of following a military combat code of honour. And why not? It is portrayed in all the Hollywood war movies. Opposing forces cease fire to allow for a moment of silence over the dead, or to celebrate a holiday, or carry back to base a fallen soldier. What we don’t talk about are the many other people who are affected by war: the women who are sexually assaulted and raped as tactics of war.

A few facts (taken from Rape: Weapon of War):

“In the resolution, passed 19 June, the Security Council noted that ‘women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group’.”

“In Liberia, which is slowly recovering after a 13-year civil war, a government survey in 10 counties in 2005-2006 showed that 92 per cent of the 1,600 women interviewed had experienced sexual violence, including rape.”

So why is rape used as a weapon of war? Because of the power inherent in the act. Rape is a weapon that carries the power to dehumanize, destroy, humiliate and punish. Women who are raped may experience psychological and physical harm/trauma, torture and dehumanization (among other things). The men who are made to watch as their kins-women are raped, experience punishment, a sense of failure, trauma, and a loss of power. So for groups at war with one another, the tactic of raping women in front of men, serves to destroy the community: the raped women may be ostracized and abandoned for the humiliation they have brought upon their family/community and there is a strong sense of shame and dehumanization within the community, which serves to weaken the community.

Rape is also used as a means of forced pregnancy. In some instances, rape may be used as a means to blur ethnic boundaries, or to engage in ethnic cleansing. It is clear in this case that patriarchy and racism are intersecting in a way that places women in an extremely traumatic and difficult situation. In the film, there was a young woman who was raped by a soldier and became pregnant with his child. This woman’s mother told filmmakers that she was living with her daughter because of her fear that her daughter would kill the newborn out of hatred and fear.

Tomorrow I will be doing my policy presentation on reproductive justice. I will spend a few minutes talking about the issue of choice for women to make decisions about their bodies. In Canada, we have seen how only certain women have been, and still are, afforded certain rights over their reproductive bodies. Canada, like many countries, has a history of denying rights and services to women from marginalized groups, even to the point of coerced sterilizations in an attempt to cleanse the Canadian population (First Nations women). The links between rape as a weapon of war and the lack of choice for women to make decisions about their bodies, their reproductive health, and their sexuality, are clear: we see the intersecting of sexism, racism and classism working to deny women choices, thus denying them power.

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