16 Resources About War-time Violence Against Women

The Bulgarian Martyresses by Konstantin Makovsky (1877). Atrocities of bashibazouks in Bulgaria in Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.

Violence is an inescapable and terrible manifestation of war and militarism with the worst of the violence being atrocities against civilians being committed in the name of intimidating the enemy to win the war. From the social acceptance of rape as part of war in ancient Greece to the Chinese and Korean comfort women of World War II. From the mass rapes of Bosnia Herzegovina and the Congo, to the forced virginity checks of female protestors in Egypt, women and girls have borne the brunt of many of these crimes against humanity.

In the face of this long-entrenched practice of using violence against women as an intimidation strategy and a sign of military might, we need to follow the lead of 2011 Nobel Peace Prize co-winner, Leymah Gbowee who led the women of Liberia to Monrovia’s town hall to demand of then-President Charles Taylor: “We the women of Liberia will no more allow ourselves to be raped, abused, misused, maimed and killed,” she shouted. “Our children and grandchildren will not be used as killing machines and sex slaves!”

Many will say that it is impossible to achieve world peace but that does not mean we should stop trying on the account of it being possibly futile. More than ever, this is the demand we must collectively make of those who would wage war for power, domination and money.

So today’s blog article is our contribution to this year’s official theme for the 16 Days of Activism:

From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!

Today’s list aims to bring you a broad range of online resources dealing with war-time violence against women. It is intended as a starting point for anybody who is not familiar with the issue of war-time violence .

We have included articles from major media and the UN, audio-visual resources including a documentary series and online films, academic papers and other online resources. To access the original resource, just click on the hyperlinked heading of each summary.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a start. So get reading, get thinking and get acting!

Editing and Introduction: Regina Yau; Research and summaries by Eliska Hahn.



Resource 1:  “How Did Rape Become a Weapon of War?”

This BBC article provides a detailed history of the multi-century-old use of rape as a weapon of war and why rape is not just a “by-product of war but (are) used as deliberate military strategies” as an effective weapon against all members of the the community and society and not just the woman who is raped.  What motivates the choice to use rape as a weapon in recent and present day conflicts?  Find out how this weapon of war still devastates lives long after the guns and other weapons are put down.

Resource 2:  Psychologist: Proof of hundreds of rape cases during Libya’s war

This article is a first-hand account from psychologist Siham Sergewa (picture, right) in Libya who has attended to countless women suffering the aftermath of wartime violence. Sergewa confirms that the the “whispers and rumors about rape being used as a tool of war by Moammar Gadhafi’s troops” are a grim reality.  Sergewa travelled to refugee camps on the Libyan border with Tunisia and Egypt where thousands of people were seeking refuge from the devastating conflict. With the help of volunteers she began a mental health survey in an effort to identify those needing help.  This report covers some of her findings.

Resource 3:  Violence Against Women Surges When War is “Done”

This article by Yifat Susskind in On The Issues magazine focuses on post-war violence against women and girls conducted by authoritarian organizations in both Guatemala and Iraq and how the rape, torture, mutilation, and murder of these girls and women are part of well-thought-out military strategy to “traumatize families and destroy the capacity of communities to resist and organize” as well as quieting those who would dare speak out against such atrocities.

Resource 4:  Rape: Weapon of War

This is a United Nations article about the practice of using rape as a weapon of war.  The UN Security Council passed a resolution June 19 and noted,  “Women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.” The resolution demanded the “immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians.”

Audio/Video Resources

Resource 5:  Women War & Peace

Women, War & Peace is a five-part PBS documentary series that challenges the conventional wisdom that war and peace are men’s domain.  This series focuses on how the post-Cold War proliferation of small arms has changed the landscape of war, with women becoming primary targets and suffering unprecedented casualties, yet they are simultaneously emerging as necessary partners in brokering lasting peace and as leaders in forging new international laws governing conflict.  Women, War, & Peace reframes our understanding of modern warfare.

Resource  6:  Rape As A Weapon Of War

A well-polished educational video just over 25 minutes in length, created and produced by Ewelina Kotowska, a student of Clinical Psychology at Teachers College of Columbia University.  Included are clips and news reports from around the world that cover the brutal history of rape as a weapon of war as well as current barriers and what people can do to assist eradicating this form of violence against women in the here and now.

Resource 7: Hear Us

In 2008, political violence erupted throughout Zimbabwe as a result of the contested national elections. Zimbabwean women of all ages, targeted for their political affiliations, were abducted from their workplaces and homes, raped, tortured, and beaten in secret torture centers. It is estimated that from May to July, state-sanctioned groups raped over 2,000 women and girls. The local police have ignored these women’s pleas for protection and justice, and national leaders have been equally unresponsive to local and international demands for an end to the violence. Hear Us features four of these women, who have come forward to demand justice from the Zimbabwean government and the Southern African Development Community.

Resource 8:  “War Against Women”

This video story (with full article) from CBS news is a hard-hitting look at the reality of how the brutal rape (often accompanied by genital mutilation) of women and children in the Dominican Republic of Congo is a common and present-day weapon of war affecting tens of thousands of victims.  Reported by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, this is a shocking reveal of how one of history’s oldest war-time practices still plays itself out to this day.

Reports, Studies and Papers

Resource 9:  On the Battlefield of Women’s Bodies:  An Overview of the Harm of War to Women

A unique harm of war for women is the trauma inflicted in military brothels, rape camps and the growing sex trafficking for prostitution and by increased domestic violence, all of which is fueled by the culture of war, male aggression, and the social and economic ruin left in the wake of war.  Widows of war, women victims of landmines, and women refugees of war are particularly vulnerable to poverty, prostitution, the extortion of sex for food by post-war peacekeepers, and higher illness and death in the post-conflict period.

Resource 10:  Politically Motivated Violence Against Women in Zimbabwe 2000-2010.  A Review of the Public Domain Literature

This 21-page report published in August 2011 is a complete and comprehensive decade-long look at politically motivated violence against women in Zimbabwe.  A number of graphs and charts help make the information more digestible and promote ease of reference.  There are many eyewitness accounts and stories of women caught up in the violence that are offered in their own words.  Regional and International laws are discussed as well as recommendations to put an end to the violence.

Resource 11:  “Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in War and it’s Aftermath: Realities, Responses and Required Resources”

This academic paper was written by Jeanne Ward and Mendy Marsh for the Symposium on Sexual Violence in Conflict and Beyond held in June 2006 in Brussels, Belgium.  It is a 34-page extensive, yet easy-to-read treatment on the realities of war-time sexual violence that includes everything from how and why sex is used as a weapon of war, proposed ways to combat this issue world wide, to the impact on the survivor, as well as assessing progress.

Resource 12:  Rape as a Weapon of War and it’s Long-term Effects on Victims and Society

This 13-page paper examines the short- and long-term effects on the individual, as well as the societal and political future of a country, when rape is used as a tool of war.  Also addressed is  why someone might choose to use rape as a tool of war and what the motivating factors are.  The paper concludes with recommendations for more in-depth analysis and studies on primary and secondary victims, as well as the rapist.

Resource 13:  UNDP Study on Understanding Electoral Violence in Asia

UNDP Global Programme for the Electoral Cycle Support (GPECS) has contributed to the study Understanding Electoral Violence in Asia  which looks at electoral processes in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, and Thailand.  Since the end of the Cold War in the 1980’s, electoral democracy in these countries has unfortunately come at the price of many lives.  This 36-page booklet takes a deep look at why this is, as well as country case studies and how this violence can be prevented.

Additional Online Resources

Resource 14:  ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence’ a Feminist Critique of Militarism

A short but very informative blog at Global Room for Women about the Center for Women’s Global Leadership’s16 day Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign for 2011 which focuses on the five key issues that were identified as priorities for those working on the intersections of violence against women and militarism for this year’s campaign theme: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!

Resource 15:  Global Justice Center

The Global Justice Center (GJC) is a human rights legal organization that develops innovative strategies to enforce international law.  This resource is a collection of external website links for women’s rights that include International Organizations, Regional/National Organizations, organizations in Asia/Pacific, Middle East, the United States/Canada, Africa, as well as Women and International Human Rights Law Resources.  One link definitely worth a click is the Amnesty International Stop Violence Against Women Campaign as well as PeaceWoman (www.peacewoman.org).

Resource 16:  Challenging Militarism and Ending Violence Against Women

Here you will find a detailed description of the 2011 Campaign theme: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women! The 16 Days Campaign focuses on five issue areas identified as priorities for those working on the intersections of violence against women and militarism and seeks to broaden our understanding of this issue.

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