Women and War: Power and Protection in the 21st Century/sexual Violence in Conflict Zones: From the Ancient World to the Era of Human Rights/women Waging War and Peace: International Perspectives of Women's Roles in Conflict and Post-Conflict Reconstruction

By Simic, Dr Olivera | International Journal on World Peace, September 2015 | Go to article overview

Women and War: Power and Protection in the 21st Century/sexual Violence in Conflict Zones: From the Ancient World to the Era of Human Rights/women Waging War and Peace: International Perspectives of Women's Roles in Conflict and Post-Conflict Reconstruction


Simic, Dr Olivera, International Journal on World Peace


WOMEN AND WAR: POWER AND PROTECTION IN THE 21ST CENTURY Kathleen Kuehnast, Chantai de Jonge Oudraat and Helga Hernes (eds) United States Institute of Peace Press, 2011 172 pages, paper, $16.95

SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN CONFLICT ZONES: FROM THE ANCIENT WORLD TO THE ERA OF HUMAN RIGHTS Elizabeth D. Heinman (ed) University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011 342 pages, hardcover, $59.95

WOMEN WAGING WAR AND PEACE: INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES OF WOMEN'S ROLES IN CONFLICT AND POST-CONFLICT RECONSTRUCTION Sandra I. Cheldelin and Maneshka Eliatamby (eds.) New York, Continuum, 2011 305 pages, paperback, $39.95

The three books reviewed offer accounts of the role and experiences of women in war and post-conflict peace. While Elizabeth Heinman's book Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones: From the Ancient World to the Era of Human Rights specifically deals with rape in times of war through historical perspective, other two books raise an issue of wartime rape as a significant theme that has been closely analysed by feminist scholars and practitioners after the 1990s. As Inger Skjclsbck in Women and War: Power and Protection in the 21st Century argues, although rape has been depicted of war and part of historical accounts for centuries, it has been largely dismissed from any form of political or historical analysis (p.65). "Thanks to" Yugoslav wars and genocide in Rwanda, sexual violence in war has become a focus of attention to feminist scholars and practitioners and international organizations and agencies working within a realm of gender analysis of armed conflicts. Mass rapes in the wars in the former Yugoslavia and during the Rwandan genocide also received widespread and unprecedented media coverage galvanizing worldwide systematic efforts to hold perpetrators accountable and to ameliorate the effects of wartime sexual violence.

A book Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones: From the Ancient World to the Era of Human Rights grew out of a conference held at the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights titled "The History of Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones" (April 2006). The book provides an impressive historical perspective on sexual violence in war, from ancient warfare to medieval England, from the American Revolution and pre-colonial warfare in Tanzania, from the Bangladeshi war to World War II. What sets apart this book from a growing literature written on the theme of sexual violence in war is that the book is situated within a field of history and written almost exclusively by historians.

The authors acknowledge that while there is a rampant increase of attention to the various forms of violence that women experience during an armed conflict, they argue that an interest in the historical record of sexualized violence in specific context is still in "its infancy" (p. 7). However, the attention to a historical record of women's experiences of violence is vital to gain deeper understanding of patterns and particular forms of sexual violence that take place in conflicts. They analyze the contextual, social and political factors that could make the type of sexual violence experienced in conflict zones more or less likely. The authors argue that by exploring the historical specific nuances, it is possible to gain a better understanding of the commonality of victims' experiences, the consequence of each form of violence for the victim and the nuanced relationship between wartime and peacetime sexual violence.

A final paper in this book written by the late Rhonda Copelon, addresses how far legal approaches to sexual violence have come and how much farther they need to go. Copelon argues that recognition of sexual violence in war as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide are all "but a starting point" (p. 254). The issues of enforcement, deterrence, prevention, and prosecution "must be taken seriously" (p.255) if we want to end long tolerated impunity for sexualized violence and respond to women's needs to effectively protect themselves from the crime. …

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