Monday, April 14, 2008

Is rape during war time unique to Africans?

Alright, the buzz at the moment in BW blogosphere is the on going crisis in Congo. Those who visit this blog may wonder why I never wrote about it being that I am from that region. And my answer to that is, its too close to home. I can not even begin to explain the issues of the Congo. My own village is right between Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.

After you get hit several times you start to get numb, and that is my relationship with my neighbors. The Congo Conflict has been referred to as Africa's First World war. This was a while back but no one listened. I worked in the media at the time the conflict started and witnessed it spiral out of control. That seems to be the way of things. There are too many players in there, both African and Foreign players including the one and only.

Anyway the reason I am posting is because, I am simply tired of the hypocrisy of the outside world that wants to make African war crimes like rape as unique only to Africans. This kind of stereotyping needs to be checked and we shouldn't let ignorance prevail.
This is obviously not a justification of rape, but for all those in the struggle for justice it is important not to be persuaded that this is a problem that is unique to Africans. This kind of thinking would not help much with your cause since from the onset one may assume that they are dealing with a problem that is race specific yet its not. Who knew that in this day and age we would have Abu Ghraib courtesy of US forces including women as the perpetrators of the abuse?

Again, what ever is going on is WRONG and alot more effort is needed to stop it but the reason I take issue with the stereotyping is because it has potential to discourage those that are willing to do something if they get convinced that the problem is in the unique savagery of Africans. (I have already heard well meaning people dispair). That is simply the nature of war and whatever supremist justifications for the misery, they are just intended to cover up what the real issues are.

Its rough down there, ugly, unjust but for any well meaning people it is not impossible to end the violence, but it will take tonnes of courage and resistance to defeatist information and forces.

I found this information on a site that lists some good sources of information as regards the rape of Women during war throughout history.


Rape during wartime:

Whenever there is an unbalance of power, the potential for rape increased.

Rape during war appears to have gone through three main stages:

In ancient times: rape was a reward to the victors: The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) describes the rape of the women of conquered tribes as a routine act. Foreign woman were often kidnapped as spoils of war, and forced to marry their captors/rapists. This was probably typical behavior in the Middle East during that era. In ancient times, rape was considered to be a crime against the victim's father or spouse -- whoever owned her. "The ancient Greeks and Romans would rape and enslave women after they had conquered a city."

More modern times: random cases of rape: Random rape by soldiers during wartime has been a common phenomenon, particularly when there has been a lack of army discipline. "From [recent] conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina to Peru to Rwanda, girls and women have been singled out for rape, imprisonment, torture and execution. Rape, identified by psychologists as the most intrusive of traumatic events, has been documented in many armed conflicts including those in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Cyprus, Haiti, Liberia, Somalia and Uganda."

Recent changes: systematic, organized rape as a tactic of war: Rape is now increasingly being intentionally used as a tactic of terror. "Rape was a weapon of terror as the German Hun marched through Belgium in World War I; gang rape was part of the orchestrated riots of Kristallnacht which marked the beginning of Nazi campaigns against the Jews. It was a weapon of revenge as the Russian Army marched to Berlin in World War II, it was used when the Japanese raped Chinese women in the city of Nanking, when the Pakistani Army battled Bangladesh, and when the American G.I.s made rape in Vietnam a 'standard operating procedure aimed at terrorizing the population into submission'." 4 Numerous recent cases have been seen, mostly in religiously-motivated wars: 1991-1994: Serbian paramilitary troops used rape systematically as a tactic to encourage Bosnian Muslim women to flee from their land.

1994: In Rwanda, Hutu leaders ordered their troops to rape Tutsi women as an integral part of their genocidal campaign.
1997: Secular women were targeted by Muslim revolutionaries in Algeria and reduced to sex slaves.
1998: Indonesian security forces allegedly raped ethnic Chinese women during a spate of major rioting.
Late 1990s: Serbian military and paramilitary units systematically raped ethnic Albanian Muslim women during the unrest in Kosovo.

The evolution of rape from a largely random event into a premeditated, organized act of terrorism during warfare has motivated international action to punish, and thus to hopefully prevent, such activity in the future.

Rape during the World War II era:
There were many such incidences during the World War II era. The most serious were:

In Nanjing, China, during 1937 & 1938, Japanese soldiers were responsible for massive levels of rape among the local Chinese population. There were "over 20,000 rape victims...when the soldiers themselves were not raping the Chinese women, they took great pleasure in forcing fathers to rape their daughters and sons to rape their mothers." 5 One source estimates that over 80,000 women were raped.

Millions of women victims raped by Russian soldiers during the last months of World War II. Anthony Beevor's book "Berlin -- The Downfall 1945" documents rape by Russian soldiers. "Beevor's conclusions are that in response to the vast scale of casualties inflicted on them by the Germans the Soviets responded in kind, and that included rape on a vast scale. It started as soon as the Red Army entered East Prussia and Silesia in 1944, and in many towns and villages every female aged from 10 to 80 was raped." The author "was 'shaken to the core' to discover that even their own Russian and Polish women and girls liberated from German concentration camps were also violated." He estimates that "a 'high proportion' of at least 15 million women who lived in the Soviet zone or were expelled from Germany's eastern provinces were raped." Until recent years, East German women from the World War II era referred to the Red Army war memorial in Berlin as "the Tomb of the Unknown Rapist."

Hundreds of thousands of kidnapped "comfort women" who probably endured in excess of ten million incidences of rape by Japanese soldiers from the mid 1930s to the end of hostilities in 1945. The Japanese military's mass program involving kidnapped "comfort women" during World War II was probably "the largest, most methodical and most deadly mass rape of women in recorded history." More details.

Rape during recent wars:
More than 20,000 Muslim girls and women were raped during the religiously-motivated atrocities in the former Yugoslavia in Bosnia. This was mainly during an organized Serbian program of cultural genocide. One goal was to make the women pregnant, and raising their children as Serbs. 10 Another was to terrorize women so that they would flee from their land.

It has been estimated that Iraqi soldiers raped at least 5,000 Kuwaiti women during Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

During the civil war in Rwanda: "One United Nations report estimated that as many as 500,000 women and girls suffered brutal forms of sexual violence , including gang-rape and sexual mutilation, after which many of them were killed."

"In Algeria, the women of entire villages have been raped and killed. The government estimates that about 1,600 girls and young women have been kidnapped to become sexual slaves by roving bands from armed Islamic groups."

One source referred to rape of Tamil women in Sri Lanka and of women in Somalia, Haiti, Kashmir and Peru.

Another source referred to rape "in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Cyprus, Haiti, Liberia, Somalia and Uganda."

A resolution of the United Methodist Church mentioned rape in the Republic of Georgia.


"Women are raped in Zion; virgins in the towns of Judah." Lamentations 5:11, from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament)

For I [God] will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses looted and the women raped; half the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Zechariah 14:2, from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament)

"I was playing jump-rope in front of my house when an automobile pulled over. I had never seen a car before in my village. When the driver offered me a ride, I, curious and naive, climbed in with my friend. Immediately, that car rolled on with us in it and then kept on going and going, never returning me to my village...." Ms. Kim Yoon Shim, a former "comfort woman," (sex-slave) about her abduction at the age of 14 by the Japanese military."

Books and articles concerning rape during wartime:

Thomas S. Abler, "Scalping, torture, cannibalism and rape: An ethno-historical analysis of conflicting cultural values in war," Anthropologica 34, pp. 3-20, (1992).

Christine Ball, "Women, rape, and war: patriarchal functions and ideologies," Atlantis 12, pp. 83-92, (1986).

Susan Brooks Thistlehwaite, " 'You may enjoy the spoil of your enemies:' rape as a Biblical metaphor for war," Semeia 61, pp. 59, (1993).

Marlene Epp, "The memory of violence: Soviet and East European Mennonite refugees and rape in the Second World War," Journal of Women's History 9, pp. 58-87, (1997-8).
Pamela Gordon, "Women, war and metaphor: language and society in the study of the Hebrew Bible," Semeia 61 (1993).

Anita Grossmann, "A question of silence: the rape of German women by occupation soldiers," October 72, pp. 54-55 (1995).

Gullance Nicoletta, "Sexual violence and family honor: British propaganda and international law during the First World War," American Historical Review 102, pp. 714-747, (1997).

Ruth Harris, "The child of the barbarian: rape, race and nationalism in France during the First World War," Past & Present 141, pp. 170-206, (1993).

Stanley Rosenman, "The spawning grounds of the Japanese rapists on Nanking," Journal of Psychohistory 28: pp. 2-23, (2000).

Louise Ryan, " 'Drunken tans:' Representations of sex and violence in the Anglo-Irish war (1919-1921)," Feminist Review 66: pp. 73-94, (2000).

Ruth Seifert, "The second front: the logic of sexual violence in wars," Women's Studies International Forum 19: pp. 35-43, (1996).

Hsu-ming Teo, "The continuum of sexual violence in occupied Germany," 1945-49," Women's History Review 5: pp. 191-218, (1996).

Site addressing the Subject