Gender based violence underlines every war. Last week Human Rights Watch reported that members of the Syrian government forces have been using sexual violence to facilitate torture of both men and women detainees. In addition, civilians have also suffered violence of a sexual nature in their own homes.
Be it Rwanda, DR Congo, Darfur, Afghanistan, Libya or Syria, war has proved to be a thriving hotbed of gender-based violence and impunity. Rape is a weapon of war, and that is a fact. Why is rape such a quintessential weapon of war?
What makes sexual violence so common on every war front, and women the easiest targets is the fact that rape is cheap, easy and extremely effective. Armed groups, combatants and non-combatants alike use rape as a means to terrorize and control women and communities. Subjecting women to sexual violence earns the woman the indelible mark of stigmatization that society throws on them. Shrouded with humiliation, families then wind up turning these women out of their homes, and when women are spurned the backbone of a societal structure is broken. Men don’t want to marry women subject to sexual violence. Families do not want to have them around anymore- either the stigma is too much to bear, or the fact that these women burden them since they can’t be married off (especially true in societies where marriages bring in bride prices). Sexual violence is calculated, brutal and absolutely bereft of humanity. Using sexual violence as a modus operandi in warfare is intricately woven with the hegemonic desire for power. Soldiers thirst to drive fear and strive to humiliate and punish women and their communities, in the hope that by doing so, they would invariably break down society entirely. Sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations is a preferred method that is used to reinforce gendered and political hierarchies.
The process of dehumanizing another human being conquers the enemy, because the subjects that are victimised are not seen as anything more than targets that should just be destroyed.