July 24, 2004 | Unknown

A Weapon of War

Earlier this year the world was, if sometimes pruriently, appalled at the sexualised violence inflicted on male inmates by female soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Garnering less attention, but creating more victims, has been the systematic sexual assault of Sudanese women and girls as part of a strategy to capture Darfur, an area containing much needed resources such as water.
The Australian recently referred to an Amnesty International report which informed that, “Sudanese Arab militiamen were raping women and young girls in a violent campaign intended to drive black Africans from the troubled western region…”
The rape of females from a hostile and/or endangered population has long been an aspect of combat and terrorist actions. In Claudia Card’s paper, Rape as a Weapon of War, Vietnamese, Pakistani, Native American and Rwandan women are acknowledged as some of those who have suffered thus.
At the end of 2003, news24.com discussed those in the Democratic Republic of Congo, some as young as four, who had been similarly attacked, with the prevalent notion that “sex with young virgins cures AIDS” doubtlessly used as a rationale for some violators of infants.
The ‘success’ of rape as a method to force a people from a specific location appears to depend on perpetrators and persecuted adhering to rigid and rudimentary patriarchal structures and beliefs.
That is, for example, one side thinks sexual abuse is a legitimate weapon since females have no rights and the other considers rape only inasmuch as it diminishes them as men and ‘stains’ women.
While “martial rape” unites the first group, the latter is compelled to flee, is weakened as a combatant force and allows the basic unit of their society to disintegrate because they usually won’t let victimised females back into their lives.
As Card argues, “why women are targeted today has more to do with….cross-cultural symbolic meaning among men in patriarchies of rape as dominance – dominance not simply over women but in war even more importantly over other men who are assumed to take pride in being protectors of women”.
An article in The Age on 29 May 2004 hinted at a noteworthy by-product of men’s absence or desire not to communicate about rape, as women such as seventeen year old Radiya, who typically would be unseen and not heard from, talked about their experiences after trekking extraordinary distances in desperate conditions to obtain help.
One place they ended up is Chad, where approximately a fifth of Darfur’s one million displaced are to be found.
That around a third of Rwanda’s rape victims (April 1994 – April 1995) ended assault induced pregnancies could be cited as evidence these women have the capacity to rebel within their heavily restricted lives, even though it was most likely understood as a survival mechanism.
By aborting they negated any chance attempts at “genetic imperialism” or genocide by birth would be realised.
Although Card veers into the eccentric when proffering tactics to eliminate “martial rape”, proposing that “the long-range goal would be to terminate both domestic and international protection rackets and thereby change the symbolic meaning of rape at the same time as that of female” is a worthy and hopefully (eventually) attainable aim.

Posted by Unknown at 9:47 am | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. I never understood this about rape used as a tool of war. Would it have applied in Bosnia as well, or are the conditions there so different? What about European medieval warfare? I’d just assumed it was a result of poor discipline and men a little bit mad with the conflict.

    Comment by Graham Young — July 26, 2004 @ 3:25 pm

  2. Yes, Evil, that is true. However, killing in warfare, as horrific as it is, is a given.
    I made the point in my earlier post (Women, Men and Images from Abu Ghraib, which can be found in the archives) that men have been (are) used as cannon fodder. This is, perhaps mostly, the case for men from poorer backgrounds.

    Comment by Darlene — July 30, 2004 @ 11:46 am

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