Rethinking 'Rape as a Weapon of War'

Feminist Legal Studies, Vol. 17, pp. 145-163, 2009

19 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2009 Last revised: 9 Jan 2011

See all articles by Doris Buss

Doris Buss

Carleton University - Department of Law

Date Written: April 6, 2009


One of the most significant shifts in current thinking on war and gender is the recognition that rape in wartime is not a simple by product of war, but often a planned and targeted policy. For many feminists 'rape as a weapon of war' provides a way to articulate the systematic, pervasive, and orchestrated nature of wartime sexual violence that marks it as integral rather than incidental to war. This recognition of rape as a weapon of war has taken on legal significance at the Rwandan and Yugoslav Tribunals where rape has been prosecuted as a crime against humanity and genocide. In this paper, I examine how the Rwanda Tribunal record of judgments conceives of rape enacted as an instrument of the genocide. I consider in particular how the Tribunal's conception of rape 'as a weapon of war' shapes what can be known about sexual violence and gender in the Rwanda genocide and what cannot, the categories of victims legally recognized and those that are not, and the questions pursued, and those foreclosed, about the patterns of violence before and during the genocide.

Keywords: Genocide, International Law, Rape, Sexual Violence, War

Suggested Citation

Buss, Doris, Rethinking 'Rape as a Weapon of War' (April 6, 2009). Feminist Legal Studies, Vol. 17, pp. 145-163, 2009 , Available at SSRN:

Doris Buss (Contact Author)

Carleton University - Department of Law ( email )

1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6

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