Review Essay of R. Charli Carpenter, Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond (New York, N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 2010), pp. 273, ISBN 978-0-231-15130-6
ILAF Review Articles 1 (2012) 1-21.
21 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2012 Last revised: 20 Oct 2013
Date Written: 2012
In spite of the great success achieved by legal scholars and human rights activists in drawing public attention to the dilemma of Bosnian, Croatian, and Kosovar wartime rape survivors, and despite the significant role played by feminist legal scholars in articulating rape, forced pregnancy, and forced maternity as crimes against humanity and crimes of war in the statutory laws and jurisprudence of a number of post-WWII international criminal courts and tribunals, they have completely failed to bring the issue of the children born as a result of these atrocious crimes onto the international human rights agenda. Only a few scholarly and journalistic works, including earlier and recent works by R. Charli Carpenter, and particularly her current work under review, have looked beyond the crisis and dealt with its consequences especially with regard to wartime rape children –– the ignored victims –– and their rights to life and social integration into their respective societies. Now teenagers –– at the time of Carpenter’s research –– many of the children born of wartime rape in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosovo have discovered their concealed identity, and accordingly, have experienced a profound sense of shame and stigmatization. Not surprisingly, this was one of the perpetrators’ long-term goals: to extend ethnic destruction and traumatization to the second generation of victims, who inevitably suffer serious discrimination, degradation, and social segregation. In view of this fact, and in contrast to other analysts who have dealt with Bosnian wartime rape children as a side effect of war –– i.e., as symbols of human wrongdoing and tools of genocide, rather than as human beings in their own right –– Carpenter challenges the constant silence of international civil society on this issue and exposes the failure of local and international human rights agencies to advocate the social, political and economic rights of these children.
Keywords: gender-based crimes, forced impregnation, forced pregnancy, forced maternity, wartime rape children, shattered motherhood, international criminal law, international human rights law, war crimes, crimes against humanity, conflict resolution
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