“You are disgusting, and this is what you deserve” – slur said to an Ethiopian rape survivor.
‘Look at how many children you can have. Now you are going to have our children. You are going to have our little Chetniks,’ said a Serbian white eagle gunman to a Bosnian Muslim rape survivor.
“Now you’re engaged, but after we rape you, no one will marry you.” – Kurdish rape survivor taunted by her captors.
There are countless slurs like the ones above that are said to war rape survivors by their rapists. Yet, they can’t do anything but endure the pain. They are displaced, their family murdered, raped, and everything taken away from them, waiting years for justice to be served. When rape occurs during the war, it is very insulting to the community’s honor. Other communities and countires are not as accepting as in the west. Women must cope with the physical and psychological trauma of rape and the possibility of rejection by their families.
Sexual assault in a war has been occurring since the classical period. Before laws against sexual violence during any war came into place, it was acceptable for a man to use a woman as legitimate booty, valuable as wives, slave labor, or battle-camp trophy. Capturing the wealth and property of an enemy was regarded as a legitimate reason for war in itself. Women were considered lawful property of a man. Therefore, the rape of a woman was considered a property crime committed against the man who owned the woman. Even if we don’t see a woman as property owned by men today, females are judged as weak. A women’s sexual purity holds the honor for her and her community. When she is raped, that honor is taken away from her and her people. Her community indirectly blames her for the shame they have to face.
It was not until 1994 that rape was considered a war crime by the U.N. Near the second half of the 20th century, cases of rape were documented in more than 20 military and paramilitary conflicts. The international community became aware of this, especially after reports of mass rape of Bosnian women during the 90s’ Balkan war and the genocide in Rwanda (1994). That sexual abuse is intentionally used as a weapon to destroy whole populations, terrorize people and drive them from their homes. Unfortunately, the government does not give victims of rape proper psychological care, leaving them traumatized.
Children of war
During the Bosnian war, more than 50,000 Muslim women were raped and forcefully impregnated by Serbian soldiers. There are around 4,000 children born out of those rapes. Many of the children were abandoned right after birth or given up for adoption because the children reminded the mothers of the horror they had to go through. In 2018 Rohingya women shared a similar faith. Raped by Myanmar soldiers and militiamen and impregnated, they were forced to flee to Bangladesh for safety. However, since Bangladesh doesn’t allow abortion after the first trimester, most women had to keep the baby.
What we can do to help
Educate others that rape in war should be spoken about and brought attention to. Help provide counseling to the victims and those affected. We must change people’s attitudes that women and girls are just as worthy as men and boys. Donate to charities that help survivors of war rape and children born from war rape.