Day 9: Women and Armed Conflict

Posted on 03 December 2000

Women and Armed Conflict

Women are raped during the war because war involves the humiliation and destruction of enemy's property - in this case, women. Women are also raped during the war because their bodies are seen as the legitimate spoils of war. "To the victor belong the spoils," goes the saying of the ancient Greeks. The availability of women after the battle was the traditional prize for Greek warriors.


Characteristics of war rape

Feminist studies have identified four notable characteristics of war rape:

  • War rape is a public event. The enemy has to see what has been done to his property. Torturers often rape in, or in front of, the woman's home. Rape then becomes an act against her husband, father, and community - not against her body.
  • War rape must be as horrendous and theatrical as possible - setting hair on fire, binding her with rope and chains - or the complete humiliation of the enemy.
  • War rape is mass rape. When the rape is performed in groups, there is an immediate witness of the soldiers' obedience to the moral code of war.
  • War rape may or may not end in the killing of the victims - maybe they looked "disgusting", or maybe because shooting them was "fun". The decision to let a woman die or not is a personal whim, still another source of power of the conqueror.


Source: ISIS International – Manila


How To Avoid Rape

Don't go out without clothes - that encourages some men
Don't go out with clothes - any clothes encourages some men
Don't go out alone at night - that encourages some men
Don't go out of the house at anytime - any situation encourages some men
Don't go out with a female friend - some men are encouraged by numbers
Don't go out with a male friend - some male friends are capable of rape
Don't stay at home - intruders and relatives can both rape
Avoid "childhood" - some rapists are " turned on by little girls"
Avoid " old age" - some rapists "prefer" aged women
Don't have a father, grandfather, uncle or brother - these are the relatives who most often rape young women
Don't have a neighbour – these often rape women
Don't marry – rape is legal within a marriage

To be sure – "DON'T EXIST"

Source: The London Rape Crisis Centre (1984)


"Was He Asking For It?"

Few rapists are punished for their crime: only one in five rapes is reported and only one out of eight reported rapes ends in conviction. In a dialogue to demonstrate why most rape victims prefer not to press charges, the reader is asked to imagine a robbery victim undergoing the same sort of cross examination that a rape victim does:

"Mr. Smith, you were held up at gunpoint on the corner of First and Main?"


"Did you struggle with the robber?"


"Why not?"

"He was armed."

"Then you made a conscious decision to comply with his demands rather than resist?"


"Did you scream? Cry out?"

"No. I was afraid."

"I see. Have you ever been held up before?"


"Have you ever given money away?"

"Yes, of course."

"And you did so willingly?"

"What are you getting at?"

"Well, let's put it like this, Mr. Smith. You've given money away in the past. In fact you have quite a reputation for philanthropy. How can we be sure you weren't contriving to have your money taken by force?"

"Listen, if I wanted -"

"Never mind. What time did this holdup take place?"

"About 11 p.m."

"You were out in the street at 11 p.m.? Doing what?"

"Just walking."

"Just walking? You know that it's dangerous being out on the street that late at night. Weren't you aware that you could have been held up?"

"I hadn't thought about it."

"What were you wearing?"

"Let's see – a suit. Yes, a suit."

"An expensive suit?"

"Well - yes. I'm a successful lawyer, you know."

"In other words, Mr. Smith, you were walking around the streets late at night in a suit that practically advertised the fact that you might be a good target for some easy money, isn't that so? I mean, if we didn't know better, Mr. Smith, we might even think that you were asking for this to happen, mightn't we?"

Source: "War on Rape"


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