The Economist has a very good article on the use of rape as a method of war. It’s a sad fact that throughout history customs of ‘taking’ the women of those who have been conquered are ubiquitous. While this seems like something which would have died off as the world became more and more modern, the stark reality is that it has been a constant in every conflict in the past century as well.
As the Economist points out, over 20,000 rapes took place in the Bosnian War. Over 500,000 took place in the Rwandan genocide. And in the DRC, there are villages where every single woman has been raped at least once. It took the United Nations until 2008 to acknowledge that rape as a tool of war, and one that must be punished. That seems like an absurdly long time to recognize something that is in the ‘no duh’ category.
As the charts point out, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest level of civil conflicts where rapes were perpetrated, but Asia isn’t far behind. The article does point out that it doesn’t need to happen in wars, as illustrated by El Salvador, where the militia got the majority of their intelligence from the people, and keeping strong bonds with the locals was far more important in order gain reliable information.
One fault I would point out deals with the Congo. A specialist points out that if a militia boss has enough control over his men to direct them, then he must have enough control to get them not to rape. This is a western belief that doesn’t touch on the root cause of raping and pillaging in the Congo. Soldiers may be willing to fight, but they are doing so because they know that with victory come the spoils, which is to say food from pillaging and rape. If a commander takes away those things, but cannot at least supply the men with a reliable source of food, then no one will listen to him and soon he’ll have either no men or find himself being ‘replaced.’
Do check out the article here, as it’s very interesting and provides a great background on the issue.