Academic journal article International Journal on World Peace

Rape: Weapon of War and Genocide

Academic journal article International Journal on World Peace

Rape: Weapon of War and Genocide

Article excerpt

RAPE: WEAPON OF WAR AND GENOCIDE Edited and Introduced by Carol Rittner and John Roth St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2012 263 pages, paper, $21.95

Never have I been so moved by any book on the embedding of sexual violence in social structure as I have by Rape: Weapon of War and Genocide. I admit, when I first opened the cover, I expected sexual violence to be presented as a force within itself or as a shadowy backyard ghost that lingered around but was not an ever-present part of the military, war, or the structure of society. But after reviewing the table of contents and the detailed index, I saw that the editors and other writers considered regional, state, and interstate manifestations of social-sexual violence within a global framework. Sexual violence was analyzed as an integral part of contemporary global institutions and mechanisms of inequality and sexual violence was defined as an integral and fundamental part of war that reflects the interconnectedness of gender, racial and ethnic, class, colonial, and global violence, particularly as it has been expressed in comparative and historical processes of genocide.

The volume emphasizes post-1930s through the early 21st century cases of genocide carried out through male armies' and insurgent units' extermination-focused and usually genocidal rape of women and girls, as well as of straight and gay men and of boys. We learn that male militaries and paramilitary units have made rape a systematically and comprehensively executed aspect of war and genocide. Along with other cases, writers examine Japanese soldiers' assaults in Nanking; German Nazis' sexual assaults of Jewish women and girls in and out of the camps; U.S., French, and Russian soldiers' rape of women at the end of World War II; males' militarily organized genocidal rape of women in Bosnia; the genocidal rape of Mayan and other Guatemalan women; and sexual violence during war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Perhaps the most powerful part of the book was looking at the world map of genocidal rape (see page xxiii) and reading the chronology from 1937 to 2011 that provided a long and complete list of countries and areas where male violence against women has become an integral part of civil, inter-ethnic, regional, and international wars.

The main argument is that genocidal rape of women and girls, and also of men and boys, is a common and contemporary mode of military conquest, of acquiring rare minerals and metals, and of subjugating families, ethnic groups, regions, and nation-states to the rule of marauders and/or male military troops and gangs. In a very helpful way, some writers modify the argument that genocidal rape is relatively new by stipulating that imperialists, colonialists, and enslavers also used rape to control women and populations from the late 1400s to the present. Some writers referred to rape by Spanish colonizers in the Americas, rape by White men in the United States as they colonized indigenous nations, and rape by White plantation owners who organized and participated in the rape of enslaved black women. In this society, power-seeking men have always raped women, especially indigenous and low-income women and women of color, as a means of conquest and as a way of maintaining control. Military and paramilitary rape sometimes expresses and supports the racial and colonial relations that undergird global society, and sometimes it comes from an effort to resist those who have power. Paramilitary rape of civilian women may represent an effort by an underprivileged group to seize some of the resources that have been expropriated by those at the top levels of the hierarchy. Male militaries have used genocidal rape to gain power, acquire land, and control labor. We rarely get a complete picture of what this means on the ground, especially to unequally stratified groups, which is why this book is important. …

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