Twelve years ago, The UN Security Council enacted resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. This resolution is designed to put a global spotlight on the role of women in armed conflict, calling for recognition that women are as much a part of international peace as other genders. It also highlighted the disproportionate impact of war and armed conflict on women.
Still today, millions of women around the world continue to be impacted by and bear a brunt of armed conflicts and wars. Women continue to be targeted for sexual violence and other interpersonal violence. As families are often separated during conflicts and wars, women are then particularly vulnerable to interpersonal violence and rape. Concurrent with violence is lack of access to food, water, healthcare, and shelter.
Sexual Violence is a war crime, and while progress has moved forward incrementally, much progress is yet to be made. International humanitarian law as enforced through the Geneva Conventions provides for the protection of women in wartime, including armed conflicts. However, while States have ratified the Geneva Conventions, not all governments ensure that the law is implemented or enforced. Violators may not equally face punishment, if any punishment is made.
While intervention remains the most common response, efforts to increase prevention is necessary. The consequences of sexual violence as a weapon of war impact societies across all factors: the impact on the individual can be across mental health, spiritual health, and social health and be lifelong. The impact on families can be social, economic, and relational creating dysfunction and disparity. The impact on societies can be splintering across social, economic, and spiritual arenas resulting in de-stabilization of social and familial groups, a disruption of social and cultural norms, a contributor to inter-ethnic conflict, and economic instability.
As sexual violence creates an impact across multiple dimensions; response requires an equal multi-dimensional effort. Appropriate response must engage the survivors, the family and the community. Programmes must be built that involve prevention, education, intervention and recovery. Women must be engaged at all levels, whether or not a survivor to fully engage in humanitarian and peace building activities.
In this article, we present a list of 16 resources to get you started with learning about the consequences of wartime Violence Against Women as well as some ideas about how to help stop it.
Written by Carol Olson; Edited by Regina Yau and Crystal Smith
This resource is an international organisation that provides the reader with information on how to get involved as an anti-rape campaigner in their campaign to focus on sexual violence in Burma, Columbia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya. This international campaign to stop rape and gender violence in conflict works to unite Nobel Peace laureates, individual advocacy organisations and individuals both within conflict zones and globally to give voice to survivors and to push forward efforts to end rape.
WMC’s Women Under Siege project was co-founded by Gloria Steinem and they work to document the relationship and use of rape and sexual violence as tools in genocide and conflict. Their project has two components:
- A public education plan demonstrating that rape is in actuality a strategic tool of war.
- Actions to push for creation of legal, diplomatic and public interventions to intervene on gender-based violence.
Women for Women has a global mission to serve women survivors of war, civil strife and conflicts. While their focus is on basic response and necessities, they also shine a spotlight on rape in areas of conflict through their Stories from Women blog.
Films and Documentaries
Calling the Ghosts: A Story about Rape, War and Women is a documentary by Julia Ormond telling the account of two women who were abducted, raped and tortured by neighbors in Bosnia and their advocacy following release with the U.N. tribunal to include rape as a war crime.
This 2007 film by Ilse can Velzen and Femke van Velzen continues to resonate with it’s recording of the 80,000 and more rapes of women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s war. Their film gives voice to ordinary women and men who are working to change their society and the slow seeping of rape into everyday life.
Operation Fine Girl: Rape Used as a Weapon of War in Sierra is a short film that looks at rape, abduction, and enslavement by rebel forces during the Sierra Leone Civil War through the eyes of four survivors.
While much attention has been given to the women survivors of wartime rape, this is the first film to focus on the children conceived through such violence. It follows the stories of offspring in Bangladesh, Bosnia, Rwanda and Nicaragua. Ryan was born out of such violence in Bangladesh and adopted in infancy by a Canadian couple. He returns to his country of origin in search of information about his mother and the Pakistani soldier who raped her during Bangladesh’s struggle for independence. He worries that he may have inherited an “evil gene” from this father. His mother was one of 250,000 women raped during that war. The documentary is a powerful indicator of the dimension of this crime of war. Watch the documentary at http://vimeo.com/groups/134190/videos/40601310
Rape in the Ranks is a 2009 film by Journalists Pascale Bourgaux and Mercedes Gallego. As war correspondents in Iraq, they uncovered a prevailing attitude from military women in Iraq that they should be very careful working in military units due to sexual assault and rape. In 2007, they filmed the stories of four military women who had been raped and made a documentary, “Rape in the Ranks: The Enemy Within.”
War and Rape: Law, Memory and Justice, published in 2011, questions the relationship between rape, politics and law. The author, Nicola Henry, provides a fascinating analysis of the silencing of rape within legal history. She argues that politics underscores the way rape is dealt with by the international community post conflict.
Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict, published in 2011 offers an analysis of the causes, responses and consequences to sexual violence in armed conflict. Janie Leatherman, explores the effect of violence and the conditions that create vulnerability for women both before and after. She explores the complexities of systemic factors such as patriarchy and militarized masculinity in combination with situational factors such as child soldiers. One of the benefits of her analysis is her conclusion that incorporates prevention and protection strategies.
Surviving the Bosnian Genocide: The Women of Srebrenica Speak, written by Selma Leydesdorff was published in 2011. Leydesdorff focuses her scholarly work on the largest mass murder in Europe since WWII, the Bosnian genocide centered in the town of Srebrenica. Leydesdorff records the devastating interviews of 60 females survivors of their lives before the conflict, their experiences during the conflict and their efforts to recover post conflict.
Rape: Weapon of war and genocide, written by John K. Roth and Carol Rittner was published this year. Roth and Rittner’s tomb is a comparative study of sexual violence as a genocidal weapon by distinguished genocide scholars. The authors explore the impact of rape and the challenges it poses to male behavior, law and political action.
The Politics of Rape: Sexual Atrocity, propaganda wars, and the restoration stage by Jennifer Airey came out in the Fall of 2012 explores the representation of sexual violence in history and its influence on the rhetoric of sexual violence in response to political upheavals.
Articles and Programmes
Sylvia Poggioli reported in April through NPR on the hundred of wartime rape victims protesting the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal to reject the prosecution of rape charges against Bosnian Serbs on trial. Listen to the programme here.
The Guardian published a story in May 2012 by Lee Webster asking: Where are women’s rights in plans to tackle rape in war zones? Ms. Webster’s article asserts the need to have women’s participation in decision making to addressing violence against women and the necessity to promote a holistic response to women following sexual violence in war in tandem with a collaborative legal system.
Check out this article by our partner, Women’s Views on News, which lists 10 ways you can begin helping to stop rape in wars. Women’s Views on News also periodically offers information and reports on rape in conflict.
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