Gendered Violence as a Weapon of Mass Destruction
in Hilmi M. Zawati, the Triumph of Ethnic Hatred and the Failure of International Political Will: Gendered Violence and Genocide in the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (Lewiston, N.Y.: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2010) Pp. 139-197.
59 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2015
Date Written: November 12, 2015
In warfare, as well as in peacetime, women have long been, and still are, targeted for and subjected to different forms of visible and invisible violence, as well as gender-based persecution. During both civil and international armed conflicts, women have been victimized at home, in public, and in refugee camps with reference to their ethnic, national, and religious backgrounds. However, the systematic wartime rape of women in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, which took on an organized form and was adopted on a massive scale as a strategic weapon of war, leaving tens of thousands of physically and psychologically devastated women, brought this grievous crime into the international legal arena.
Wartime rape must be regarded as one of the most grievous crimes against humanity. This act of aggression, motivated by hatred, contempt, oppression, and intimidation, is seldom driven by the perpetrator’s sexual desire, since the rapist’s sexuality is used simply as a mechanical weapon of war to execute a violent act that humiliates and inflicts a spiritual injury upon both the victim and her society. In most cases, wartime rape stems from the traditional belief that women are the property of men and that, by ravishing them, the perpetrators will gain an upper hand over their male opponents.
This chapter establishes a framework for understanding the nature and contours of sexual violence through case-studies of systematic rape as an integral element of ethnic conflict and genocide in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. It provides a critical view of the ideology of wartime sexual violence, wartime rape motivations, and the historical invisibility of this crime of which women were, and still are, the primary targets and defenceless victims. Moreover, it argues that the wartime rape of mainly Bosnian Muslim and Rwandan Tutsi women emerged as a powerful instrument of annihilation, whether as a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing or as the inspiration of a moment, driven by deep ethnic hatred. Finally, it demonstrates how such victimization shaped the Serb and Hutu rapists’ ethno-national agenda.
Keywords: Systematic Wartime Rape; Wartime Sexual Violence; Gender-Based Crimes; Bosnian Muslim women; Rwandan Tutsi women; Former Yugoslavia; Rwanda; Bosnia-Herzegovina; Croatia; Kosovo; Serbia; Hilmi Zawati.
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