What’s The Most Powerful Weapon Of War?| Rape
“Nina Hoss runs into an old friend. It is 1945, the German capital has recently fallen to the Soviet Army, and the two women exchange what is apparently a common greeting at that time and place: ‘How often?’ The unspoken, self-evident meaning of this question is ‘How many Russian soldiers have raped you?’”**
Rape And Sexual Violence Continue To Be Weapons Of War
It was one year ago in August when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned sexual violence during a visit to eastern Congo, where an estimated 200,000 people have been abused in the decade old war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In too many ways this war, as many others, has become a war against women with rape the weapon of choice.
Rape occurs in all wars, perpetrated by both the victor and the vanquished. Ironically rape and violence against the female citizenry create a commonality between enemies and among countries around the globe – from the soldiers of the DRC, to those of Afghanistan to Russia to the United States to Burma to Peru and more.
So when Time Magazine put the provocative call-to-action picture of 18-year-old Aisha on its cover with the question “What happens if we leave Afghanistan?”, it should have been juxtaposed with the picture of a child or a grown woman being raped by soldiers. The rape photo would need to be a real-time photo because the scars of rape are typically not visible, which makes it easier for people to ignore. Yet rape, like the violence bestowed on Aisha, is also an unspeakable horror: degrading, humiliating and requiring treatment. Gang rape by soldiers is…well there aren’t words. (I read many specific stories of rape during war, which perhaps I should have included. But they are so disturbing and eventually crazy-making &/or mind numbing for me that I chose not to include them. But, without a visual such as the Time cover or a story, the emotion and shock factor are mitigated).
But please understand that just as cutting off the nose and ears of a young bride is a way to control her and show her and other women who has the power, raping a woman (especially in front of her family or village) is also a means of control and showing everyone who has the power. It’s two sides of the same coin.
Rape. Is. Always. About. Power.
It’s ironic that protecting women against violence is the justification for continuing (any) war when one of the by-products of war is violence against women. Women have long been seen as symbols of nation or community and they are, literally, the carriers of the next generation. Amnesty International writes that: “Violence directed against women is often considered an attack against the values or ‘honor’ of a society and therefore a particularly potent tool of war.”
- Gang rape has replaced looting and pillaging as the chosen weapon of social terror because it is more effective in destroying families, villages and tribes.
- In Bosnia it was used as a deliberate military tactic to speed up the process of ‘ethnic cleansing’.
- In Iraq, rape is a taboo subject. Shame is brought to the child/girl/woman and her family. The ripple effects are vast.
Although rape is now recognized as a war crime, there remains a tacit acceptance of rape and other forms of sexual violence as an unavoidable part of war. (including within the military ranks. See: Raped In Service To Your Country). As horrible as it sounds, I agree. I don’t think we can have war, which by its very nature is violent, and not expect to see women (and increasing numbers of men) being raped and more.
Active duty soldiers live in constant fear; they’re away from their support systems; they see their buddies blown apart. Add to that the common practice of lumping together the citizenry with the soldiers and government/terrorist actions, then labeling them with a degrading term and the population is effectively dehumanized. Once dehumanized or objectified, it is easier to commit heinous acts against people. All this serves up a volatile mixture that often ends up exploding against females anywhere from the age of 5 to 75.
All that being said, I am not excusing the behavior – the perpetrators should be punished but it’s wishful thinking that punishment will happen to any great extent or serve as a deterrent.
So What’s My Call To Action?
It’s an easy start:
a. Scroll down on this link to find an appendix of groups that support women in developing countries. Many are on Facebook and Twitter. Support their efforts in any way you can.
2. Read Three Cups of Tea by Ed Mortenson and David Oliver Relin about one man’s mission to promote peace…one school at a time. This link also connects you to a website with a cool little tab that says “How You Can Help”
a. “I am convinced that the long-term solution to terrorism in general, and Afghanistan specifically, is education,” Lt. Col. Christopher Kolenda, who works on the Afghan front lines, said in an e-mail in which he raved about Mr. Mortenson’s work. “The conflict here will not be won with bombs but with books. … The thirst for education here is palpable.”
3. Volunteer in your own community. It’s worth the time.
4. Take to the streets in peaceful protest. One possibility: On October 2, 2010 March on Washington for jobs, justice and peace.
5. Listen to this 1970 oldie but goodie
6. Comment and dialogue on the post. Use your freedom of speech (just do it kindly please).
**Taken from “A Woman In Berlin”.