War and rape… Using rape as one of the weapons is as old as history. The primitive idea that ignores woman’s existence sees sexual harassment and rape as the main method to humiliate and get rid of the enemy. While entering 21st century, sexual violence is being used as a war strategy in the ongoing wars. War that hits woman first, prefers rape to bullet.
She felt like she was in an infinite cavity. The colors were blowing inside of her tightly bound eyes. The hand that was pulling her arms that were tied behind suddenly grabbed her hair and hit her face to the wall. She couldn’t breath. While those hands that she couldn’t see were taking her pants down, she felt nauseous with the man’s disgusting smell. “Rape doesn’t kill”, she thought. The unbearable pain of the electricity came to her mind. “I can stand this one, too. They can’t make me betray anyone”, she said to herself. The blood was flowing from her lips that she had been biting when the sound of snarling of the man behind and the laughter of the others reached her ears among the light sobbing. Life has stopped suddenly when “How do you like our fucking your wife?” asked. 21-year-old woman didn’t need have fear anymore. She didn’t give anyone away; she can’t talk at all for 5 years now. She was from El Salvador, her name was Amaia.
The four young women in the room were all naked. What was happening? When two of the soldiers held her skinny arms and started ripping her clothes part, the silent tears started flowing from the women’s eyes that had lost their meaning. She couldn’t understand why the women were crying and what the soldiers were trying to do. She didn’t know anything about war or men. Suddenly she was shaken by the pain that cuts her whole body from tip to toe. She realized that the man between her legs was one of her elder brother’s friends from school. During the month after that, she couldn’t think of anything, she couldn’t feel anything but the terrible pain. 12-year-old little girl was not pregnant and she won’t be ever. She was a Bosnian Muslim, her name was Enisa.
Amaia and Enisa, are only two of the millions whose names and ages are unknown. They are only two examples of woman bodies that were used by men as battlefield throughout history. In ancient Greek, Roman and Jewish cultures, woman was gained as part of the land and spoils. It was rape and slavery that were waiting for women as it was told in the war of Troy in Iliad. Woman without any legal rights has been seen as the property of man for many centuries.
Raping women perceived as an attack on enemy men and society. The men of the lost side saw the rape on their women as the biggest humiliation. It was indeed their male pride that was wounded. This egocentric view changed protecting women into protecting male pride.
The body of the raped woman became the battlefield where the flag of victory is hoisted. In spite of small progresses in the 19th and 20th centuries, rape stayed a method of satisfying the feelings of power and the latest hit! It’s impossible to see the rapes that took place in wars as the result of misdirected primitive sexual desires or lust. This state that was ignored by the historians and psychologists until recently, is in fact nothing but using woman body as a strategy. In World War I, when Germany entered into Belgium, rape was the gun of violence. Group rapes of Jewish people were the beginning of Nazi campaign. It was the tool for revenge when Russian army walked into Berlin. US soldiers used Vietnamese women as whores. They put snakes into their vaginas.History belongs to men. Rape, which had been considered a natural part of war until the happenings of Bosnia were revealed, carries in fact the message of destruction of culture and society. In men’s history of war, woman’s body is given to “devoted” soldiers, is used either to punish the enemy or for vengeance. Even the words of propaganda that the nations use in war are enough to explain everything. “They will rape our women”, “Let us protect our honor”.
There is no doubt that women face the risk of being separated from their families, their husbands, their children, and being killed or tortured. But none of these can be compared to rape and its consequences. The main motive of the happenings in Bosnia was to show scorn to men rather than their wives, to eliminate their culture. In the eye of rapist, the victim is the symbol of the enemy. In terms of national values woman is the property of the man-enemy, and rape is the last sign of contempt towards the enemy. The bitterest side of the issue is that society has a hard time accepting the woman who has been raped. Even though he knows that woman is not guilty, man does not manage to handle it. The woman who has been raped is regarded as an object, a passive vessel receiving the seed of man. Woman’s identity as an individual and her existence are pushed aside; she is reduced to the level of used property. Making the woman pregnant and forcing her to bear the child are the most horrifying dimension of the issue. Carrying the enemy’s child in her womb, everybody’s recognition that it is the child of the enemy, her knowledge that it also belongs to her, are the biggest tortures for the woman. As rapists tell women’s husbands that their wives are worthless now that they have given life to the enemy’s child, the bitterest part is that the husbands feel this way as well.
In fact, based on Geneva conventions, a special protection should be provided to women because of their sex. To protect women against the humiliation events; especially rape, forced prostitution and any kind of attack; to provide separate sections for women in concentration camps, for women was criminals and to provide women supervisors for women convicts are included in the convention.
While the criminals were supposed to be judged in the international courts, after the World War II, Nurnberg and Tokyo courts didn’t do anything even the committed crimes were in terrifying level. Yet, Japan soldiers raped almost all the women victims in the Nanjing massacre where 300 thousand Chinese were killed. 200 thousand Korean and Asian women forced to be sex slaves. Very few women from Ukraine could escape from Nazi rapes. The young women collected from Smolensk streets were sent to the brothels opened for army officers. Russians raped 110 thousand women when they occupied Berlin in 1945. In 1943, the rape certificates were given to the Algerian member of the French army. Only Italian government in 1943 provided retirement salary to the women who were raped by French soldiers. In Germany, only one woman at the end of the war could receive a salary because she was raped by Russian soldiers. Committed crimes against women were not even reviewed in Vietnam and Afghanistan wars.
Who is going to be judged in the court? Bringing women to the court is also not as easy as one might think. To be able to bring some security to the court; professional help, women translators and supervisors, safe place in the court, physical protection and prevention of meeting with rapist face to face are needed. The raped woman doesn’t want to go to the court; not to see the rapist again, not to be judged and examined in the court, feel humiliated and ashamed, not to be questioned about her private life. Telling in the court how the sexual violence took place is difficult because of the privacy and uniqueness of experiencing violence. The committed crime is, because of war and having lost her loved ones, the already in pain woman is humiliated all over again while explaining her pain in the court. Even if she goes to the court, she doesn’t see any salvation for herself. She is already in a situation where she lost everything; she feels insecure, hopeless, helpless and futureless. A very few of them actually fights in the court by taking all the risks and pain for revenge.
For the first time in 1993 the United Nations’ Human Rights committee recognized rape as a war crime. Even if it is encouraging examining the rape cases committed in Bosnia in wide dimensions in the International War Crime Courts, to have only two officers, having only two women judges out of 11 makes it suspectful that the sexual aspect of the committed crime is being forgotten and makes the whole thing to be treated as a janist weapon. The court becomes responsible for human rights rather than daily justice issues. The events happened in Bosnia cannot be compared to anything. The women who’d give their statements and identify criminals were allowed to be present in the court via one-way video connectivity.
Rape is one of the most effective ways of making women population passive, taking self-confidence and honor away. Although it’s also a human rights violation, it should be treated differently when happens in war. Just thinking about the possibilities of having 1 out of 100 women pregnant brings us to horrifying results. The social workers who help victims of rape should also take the cultural perspective and personal values of woman into the account. Because rape is used as a military strategy, it is especially effective in the cultures where woman is valued as the “honor of the family”. Many Asian and Muslim cultures have this opinion. The hurt women are not wanted by their families and they are not respected. They have to deal not only with their own personal pain and struggle but also with the cultural values, with the feeling of humiliation and shame, they don’t report what happened.
According to the researches, half of the people who were raped and 98% of them who were exposed to other kinds of sexual violence don’t report. The ones that report might not want to go back to their husbands or touch their children again. They don’t want to be touched, they don’t want to be around men or in social relationships. They go into severe depression, lose weight, lose their hope and belief in future, they are afraid of strangers and feel dirty.
If her culture finds the woman shameful, she blames herself and thinks herself as the cause of the rape. Accordingly to their culture; while South African woman sees what happened as the result of the political movements, the Southeast Asian woman thinks it’s the result of her karma. In Balkans, where honor and shame connection is very strong, woman is valued as the center of the honor of the family and society, this kind of humiliation was very effective. Some of the women in the rape camps that are called “Pakano na zemlji” (the hell on the earth) by women, died by committing suicide.
In the culture where male honor built on “woman’s chastity”, whether it’s forced or not, when woman has sex with someone else, man feels his male honor hurt. In the name of protecting her husband, woman buries her terrifying experience inside.Worse than death! Bringing out their bones by cutting their breasts, taking their babies out of their bodies by cutting their stomachs, putting objects like sticks, carrots into their vaginas and stirring inside until they are dead are some of the events the women have to live after the rape.
Rape and sexual violence are also one of the main reasons for becoming refugee. One of the main goals of the rapes for “ethnic purification” in Bosnia was to force people to leave their home. Sudden migration leaves women and children out of their traditional safety. The women who try to escape from rape then are exposed to the rape by thieves, border guards, police and officers in camps. In Vietnam, women in open sea are kidnapped, raped and thrown away to the sea. In Mozambique, they are kidnapped and forced to serve in guerrillas.The women who are kidnapped from the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan are sold for prostitution. There’s not enough security in refugee camps. The overcrowd and hunger expose women to the violence of their own societies’ and men in the camps. In Tanzania, 500 thousand women from Rwanda and Burundi live in refugee camps. The number of young women who seek treatment for sexual violence and rape is increasing fast. Having AIDS spread immensely makes young women who are thought to be virgin a bigger target of rape. Even though a bigger part of the refugee population is women and girls, they are not provided with help programs.
Rape is accepted as part of the refugee life. When her baby cries with “I’m hungry” tears, prostitution becomes inevitable.Rape became a part of war in El Salvador, Guatemala, Kuwait and old Yugoslavia in the last quarter of the century. In Rwanda, after the horrifying jenosit in 1994, almost all the women and girls who could escape from the massacre were raped. The Bosnia case is horrifying because of forcing women to give birth. In rape camps, women kept being raped until they become pregnant and too late for abortion. The one who didn’t get pregnant were killed.
United Nation convention recognizes this kind of rape as jenosit crime. It also argues that the rape aims pregnancy should be treated as biological war. The pregnant women who are raped for ethnic purification got abortion even in the late terms of their pregnancy. The ones who had to give birth left their babies before even seeing their faces. One of the rare women who didn’t leave her baby behind explains her contradiction like this: “When he is good, I want to hug him but my arms freeze in the air. When he is bad, I want to punish him but I can’t. My own humiliation comes to my mind”. The rapes in Bosnia are being listed under 5 titles in United Nation commission. Rape in society to destroy the fight and defense, rape and sexual humiliation in concentration camps, rape to aim fear for ethic purification, imprisonment in hotels and places alike to provide sexual service to the soldiers. Guns and broken bottles were used as sexual torture and sadism examples. Family members forced to have sex with each other. Some of the victims recognized that the rapists were actually their friends and their neighbors.
Most of the rape criminals admit that they received orders to rape. This proves that there is certain politics exist as a strategy.It was always said after wars that those kinds of things could happen, that both sides commit those crimes. Nobody wanted to think that women could be “a side” as well. No one noticed that women have been raped by men and there are no women who rape men. However both sides commit crimes, both sides kill and bury each other in graves in groups, torture, put innocent into the concentration camps, rarely cut some of the men’s balls, kill the ones who reject to rape.Either in peace or war, rape is the proof of men ignoring women existence, their equality and their existence as long as men let it. It is the order of the world of men that is insensitive to women’s pain and the military system that is regarded as weapon of war that lets the rape be ignored, even though it was prohibited by the human rights laws for years and years!