August 22, 2017

Gender-based violence as a weapon of war

Scars Across Humanity Posting 14

Chapter 9 Sexual Violence and War

From any angle, war and terrorism are a horrible blight on the human race……….

War embodies a gender paradox. It is traditionally fought by male military combatants, yet from every international or non-international war zone we hear reports of brutal violence against women. In our contemporary world, according to Amnesty International, 90 per cent of casualties in modern warfare are civilian and of these 75 per cent are women and children.

Rape as a weapon of war: counting the toll

The number of women involved in coercive violence is staggering. In the 100 days of genocide that ravaged the small African nation of Rwanda, an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped. In Sierra Leone, between 1991 and 2000, about 64,000 internally displaced women endured sexual assault. In the Balkans tensions of the 1990s, thousands of women in Bosnia- Herzegovina and Kosovo experienced terrible violations involving mass rape: 20,000 to 50,000 women were violated in the Bosnian conflict over three years. During the Liberian civil war, from 1999 to 2003, about 49 per cent of women aged 15 to 70 experienced sexual violence from soldiers or armed militia. In the early 2000s Janjaweed paramilitary and Sudanese government troops raped and murdered tens of thousands of non-Arab women in Darfur. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an estimated 200,000 surviving rape victims are alive today, although the figure for those who were killed will probably never be known. In 2013 rampant violence against women was reported in the civil war in Somalia, and reports from Syria said that 90,000 women and children had fled rape and sexual persecution.Yet fleeing guarantees no safety, for reports of gender-based violence towards women refugees – from Iraq, Somalia, Chad, Syria – flood out from the internally displaced person (IDP) camps that take them in. As recently as 2014, chronic instability and lawlessness in the Central African Republic opened up another wave of violence against women, and the brutal barbarity of Islamic State fighters continues the vicious process. Yet none of this awful scenario is new. Sexual violence was prevalent in Europe as far back as the 1914–18 War; it was in Asia during the Asia–Pacific Wars, and across more than one continent in the Second World War. One hundred years after the outbreak of the First World War, the National Catholic Reporter called for us to properly recognize gender-based violence in war for what it surely is:

peaceBeheadings and bombings are seen as terrorist acts, but the systematic rape, abduction, and trafficking of women as a war tactic is still viewed only as a women’s or humanitarian issue. Until we recognize these acts of sexual violence as acts of terrorism and not simply as a humanitarian concern it will be difficult to combat these ongoing, catastrophic attacks on women.

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