When I saw an article on the Guardian about how Angelina Jolie wanted to launch her career as a director with a film about the Serbian Rape Camps, it got me thinking… and reading. The material I found was not in the least bit encouraging.What is more shocking than the fact that rape camps exists is the horrifying reality that they are home to what are now referred to as ‘war rapes’.
What is a war rape?
In a war, rape is apparently frequently used as means of psychological warfare to humiliate the enemy and undermine their morale. War rape is often systematic and thorough, and military leaders may actually encourage their soldiers to rape civilians.
As much as I wanted to deny that this is the attitude, I couldn’t help but remember the numerous times that rape and torture of civilians of war torn countries were reported and then eventually dismissed. Even recently, when evidence emerged suggesting that the Iraqi civilians might have been exposed to far greater levels of torture than previously known, there was a surprising apathy among a lot of people.
The historical evolution of the gruesome crime suggests that the attitude towards this particular violation of humanitarian law, suggests that perceptions are still medieval. The sexual attrocities during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 , the systematic and widespread gang rape, torture and sexual enslavement by the Bosnian Serb soldiers, policemen, and members of paramilitary groups in Sarajevo in April , and the recent war crimes in Iraq. All of these stand testimony to the gross negligence of basic decency by official machinery.
Rape is a physical and psychological degradation of an individual. It is sad that despite the Geneva Convention, classifying rape as a war crime, the disregard to sexual violence in times of conflict continues to prevail. How developed a race can we claim ourselves to be, if we still treat fellow civilians as ‘spoils of war’?