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Genocide Rape as a Weapon of Mass Destruction

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“Lovely female shapes are terrible complicators of the difficulties and dangers of this earthly life, especially for their owners,” wrote George du Maurier.

There is a group of people that have a decidedly unique experience with regards to genocide and war. This group comprises over 50 percent of the world population, and yet goes ignored the most often. They are the bane of every man’s existence and his greatest pleasure as well. They are women, and they have a distinct war story to tell.

It is important, however, that before we speak of the unique aspects of the female experience, we talk about the experiences shared by the two sexes in times of genocide. We are all familiar with what I am talking about, but rarely do we acknowledge that women are part of the atrocities of war that occur every day. Women are buried side by side with men in Serbia. Women were put in gas chambers in Auschwitz. Women were dismembered and their limbs discarded in Croatia. Because we label these acts as crimes against humanity, or the like, we often lose the all too important recognition that individual human rights were indeed violated. The individual becomes lost in the woodwork of the larger population which is targeted for extermination.

As for the unique aspect, women are targeted sexually during times of war to a far greater degree than are men. This is not to say that men are not the victims of sexual crimes, as was seen at Abu Ghraib - just that women are subject to them more often. As such, these crimes are often put on the backburner or swept up as a component of a larger conflict. We might know there were concentration camps in Croatia. However, much less is made of the camps designated specifically as rape camps, camps at which the focus was forcibly raping and impregnating Croatian and Muslim women. It is common knowledge that Nazis used Jewish citizens to conduct scientific experiments. Few, however, know that these experiments included forcing prostitutes to have sexual intercourse with frozen men to see if they could successfully revive and warm them.

Some of you may be wondering why I bring this up. The more knowledgeable among you may be thinking that you already know these things happened, and you don’t understand the significance of it. I invite you to examine sexual crimes against women in the modern era. Rape and related sexual crimes have increased drastically, occurring at alarming rates in Darfur, the Congo, East Timor, Sri Lanka, and nearly all similar conflict areas. Military personnel, as well as forced civilians, are party to these crimes. However, the trend of sweeping these crimes under the rug has not yet ended. They continue to be considered as a natural byproduct of war or as individual crimes not to be prosecuted under the laws of war.

There is a new call, however, for a special designation of rape as a weapon of war, or rape as a war crime, and the argument has merit. Rape, when conducted in the context of war, adopts a very different countenance. The scale increases greatly. The intent is also changed, not to mention the systematic nature the crime often adopts. Not to downplay domestic sexual crimes, but they are generally conducted on an individual level, and the motivations often reflect that. In cases of genocide, the dynamic is quite different. While the intent to dehumanize is still present, it is coupled with intent to harm a specific population, and often, to cripple that population’s backbone. Most importantly, however, the crime can no longer be dismissed as a crime of passion or lack of control. Rather, as is demonstrated by the rape camp example above, it is conducted systematically under controlled settings, the commands being passed down from the higher-ups to those who are to carry them out.

Unfortunately, there is no precedent for prosecuting genocide rape, and so it remains largely unnoticed and ignored. In its scale and effect, genocide rape is no different than a weapon of mass destruction, and it should be treated as such.

This is an article I wrote for The Observer, the campus newspaper at Case Western Reserve University. For the original article, go to

Written by Sultan Ahmed

January 4th, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Posted in Genocide Watch

3 Responses to 'Genocide Rape as a Weapon of Mass Destruction'

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