History of Rape in armed conflict
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
Rape and violent sexual abuse of women in armed conflict has a long history which corroborates that sexual violence is not only common; in effect it is encouraged. In war, every man could be king  . Rape has existed as an invidious expression of the domination and subjugation of women throughout the course of human existence and is compelling evidence of the subordination of women by men  .Women are raped by men of all ethnic origins, creed and ideologies. During Biblical times soldiers regarded women as spoils of war; Biblical law conveyed that soldiers could “take these as plunder…. [a]nd you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies”  . Hebrews raped  and were permitted to keep the captives as slaves or concubines. Greeks raped; Homer’s Iliad offers an insight into the fate of women in war, the book opens with an argument between the Greek warriors Agamemnon and Achilles over the possession of women seized during the Trojan War. Chryseism a Trojan woman of lesser status was captured by the Spartans and given to Agamemnon as his battle camp entertainment  .
In the History of Art H W Janson has offered an explanation of the sculpture by the 16th century Italian artist Giovanni Bologna entitled Rape of The Sabine women, which is a reminder of the fate of the Sabine women at the hands of Roman warriors  . In the middle age during the first crusade knights throughout their march to Constantinople set aside time to assault women  . In the fifteenth century French soldiers raped English women during the hundred year war  and Catholic French raped French women during the war of religion  . In 1746 King George’s army suppressed a Scottish rebellion by raping any Scottish woman ill-fated enough to be home  . George Washington’s documents recorded an occurrence of rape in the revolutionary war  .General Andrew Jackson was credited with coining the phrase “Booty and Beauty” during the 1812 war  ,substantiating the opinion that women during war become mere object and are no more legal subjects.
In 1914 during World War I, rape was extensively used against French and Belgian women by German soldiers, who began to abandon this practice  , when the troops switched to trench warfare making access to local women difficult  . Rape was used as a war tactic by German and Japanese armies in World War II and later by the Russian forces as a weapon of retribution .Kristallnacht or the night of broken glass was a night of rapes, arson, plunder and murder in November 1938 as Germans killed Jews, burned their properties and arrested the survivors, so that they could be moved to concentration camps  . However, it must be noted that Hitler’s government expelled rapists from the Nazi party and turned them over to the civil courts as Nazis regarded rapes more reprehensible than murder since rape violated Nuremburg racial laws forbidding sexual intercourse between Gentiles and Jews. When the war changed course and the Russian army advanced into German territory, German women were treated exactly as the Russian women had been treated by the Germans. “Hordes of Russian troops … demanded the rights due the conquerors: the women of the conquered”  . Moroccan armed force in 1948 fought free French forces in Italy under contract terms that included free license to rape and plunder in the enemy territory  . In 1937 “during World War II” the Chinese Nationalist army used Nanking as its capital but General Chiang Kai-shek decided not to defend Nanking and withdrew the army “when Japanese forces arrived” leaving the city full of defenceless women and children resulting in a number of them being abnormally and sadistically killed and raped  . Many old women and young girls were raped and their bodies were mutilated after the act. In the Tokyo tribunal it was noted that the Japanese government had knowledge of the rapes but did nothing to prevent them from happening  . The atrocities did not stop with Nanking, the Japanese soldiers forced almost 80,000 to 200,000 Asian women, mostly Korean who were known as “comfort women”, to serve as sex slaves. These comfort women were held mostly at frontline brothels and evidence shows that officials of the Japanese Imperial army  maintained meticulous records about the price per woman (one yen to use a Chinese woman, one and a half yen to use a Korean woman and two yen to use a Japanese woman) , revenue generated and venereal disease  . While giving evidence at the Tokyo tribunal, one soldier admitted that he partook in daybreak raids on Korean villages dragging women and loading them into trucks to be taken to frontline brothels  . Historians hold the view that most women held in Japanese brothels died during or soon after the World war II  .
The experience of Vietnamese women in the 1960’s was no different than the experience of women involved in armed conflict in the past.The sight of a woman’s body spread eagled with an 11th brigade badge between her legs, witnessed by an American G.I flying over a rice paddy near the village of My Lai in Vietnam, a few days after an American unit had massacred nearly the entire population, bears some evidence to this continuing abuse.  .
Time and war tactics advanced but the plight of women during armed conflict saw no change. More than 20,000 Bengali women were raped and impregnated by Pakistani soldiers in the 1971 war between Pakistan and what is today Bangladesh  . Almost 5000 women were raped by Iraqi soldiers during the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait and after liberation a number of foreign domestic workers were raped by returning Kuwaitis  . Women in Rwanda  and Kashmir  suffered rape and death during internal armed conflict. During Peru’s 12 year internal war women were raped, murdered and threatened both by the government security forces and the communist party of Peru shining path  . Similarly women in East Timor were raped and killed since the Indonesian occupation of 1975  . During the ethnic violence of Liberia’s civil war, Liberian women faced rape and death  . Media reports are available of sexual violence committed against women by UNTAC in Cambodia; UN forces in Somalia and rebel forces in Dr. Congo  .
Most recently, there have been reports of mass rapes which have occurred in the war torn lands of the former Yugoslavia. M. Cherif Bassiouni (head of an U N commission investigating war crimes) cited almost 13,000 to 50,000 rape victims in the Bosnian war, majority being Muslim women victimized by the Serbs  , who used rape as a weapon in order to express the totality of victory, a means for troop mollification and as a form of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The details listed above are but a few to give an insight into the historical past ; however, for ages rape has been used and continues to be used globally as a weapon during internal or external armed conflict.
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