UN labels rape as a ‘tactic of war’

// 20 June 2008

unflag.gifThe UN Security Council has approved a resolution that demands warring governments and factions act to halt violence against women, calling rape a war crime and a component of genocide.

Sexual violence in war is nothing new. Accounts of women being raped by conquering armies as "spoils of war" go back centuries. But the resolution says rape is not just a by-product of war, but a military tactic. In recent times, the Balkan wars of the 1990s alerted the world to the use of rape as a weapon of conflict.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council that violence against women had reached "unspeakable and pandemic proportions" in some places recovering from conflict.

The resolution was welcomed as a "historic achievement" by Human Rights Watch, which said the world body had all too often ignored the problem.

These days, the problem is worst in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Major General Patrick Cammaert told the meeting he witnessed the impact of rape as a UN peacekeeping commander in eastern Congo. He described such violence as a "particularly potent tool of war", as it dehumanizes its victims. "It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in an armed conflict", he said.

It’s not just warring factions that are accused of rape. UN peacekeepers themselves have been accused of sexual offenses in several countries. The resolution calls for more vigilance in stopping and preventing such abuses.

Its practical impact, however, remains unclear. Ban is expected to report back on its implementation in a year.

(Via Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

Image via Open Clip Art Library, used under the terms of the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication.

(Cross-posted at bird of paradox)

Comments From You

Sabre // Posted 20 June 2008 at 2:51 pm

About time too! But will it really do much to stop these rapes happening? Rape during war is usually seen as a way to undermine the enemy’s men and community, by ‘taking’ their women (i.e. their possessions). Isn’t that why the dreadful phrase ‘spoils of war’ includes rape? Because the enemy’s women are not seen as people, they are merely commodities to be taken/spoiled like food, cattle, belongings etc. It dehumanises women even further because the intention isn’t to necessarily hurt HER, but the MEN of her family.

It’s great that the UN have finally redefined rape as a war crime, but the real solution would be cultural changes whereby women are not treated as commodities, and raping a woman does not make her an shameful outcast from her community, (thus damaging the community and families and achieving what the rapists want).

I’ll be interested to see how the UN propose fighting this crime when its so widespread (can you think of a war where women are not raped in numbers by the enemy?) and its own peacekeepers have been accused of rape.

Jillian // Posted 21 June 2008 at 11:50 am

I think that it’s great that this has finally been passed, as a student of Human Rights I have always had serious concern about the use of rape as a weapon of war. However, my elation is significantly dampened by questions of the practical implications of this ruling. What now? How will this have a positive impact on the instances of rape in war?

Anne Onne // Posted 22 June 2008 at 12:14 pm

Definitely true, but I second the question ‘what now?’.

I also agree that I’s like to see a move where rape does not bring dishonour on the victim. If men are attacked during war, we get bragging about ‘war wounds’, and no dishonour, but women victims of war tactics are not given the same treatment. I don’t know if we’ll ever see the day when rape is truly seen as a crime against the woman, and not against her male relatives, but I hope so.

Women and children have always suffered more in wars than men, specifically because they’re not treated as people.

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