Rape: A weapon of war

July 28, 2008

With very little fanfare U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice used her time at the UN recently to get a resolution through the Security Council that recognizes rape as an instrument of war (report from Global Sociology Blog).

UN Security Council (UN photo)

UN Security Council (UN photo)

Unfortunately the act got very little coverage in the U.S. press, so far as I can tell. (Please feel free to post links to articles you know about in comments.)

Mark this carefully, you’ll not read it often here: Kudos and thank you to Rice and the Bush Administration.

The UN News Centre reported:

In a resolution adopted unanimously after a day-long debate on women, peace and security, Council members said women and girls are consistently targeted during conflicts “as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.”

The effect is to also prolong or deepen conflicts and to exacerbate already dire security and humanitarian conditions, particularly when the perpetrators of violent crimes against women go unpunished for their actions.

The resolution demands that all parties immediate stop sexual violence against civilians and begin taking measures, from the training of troops and upholding of military discipline procedures, to protect women and girls.

Sexual violence crimes should be excluded from amnesties reached at the end of conflicts, the 15-member Council added, calling on States to also strengthen their judicial and health-care systems to provide better assistance to victims of violence.

The resolution was adopted after dozens of speakers told the Council about the appalling effects of sexual violence during armed conflicts, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying the problem had reached “unspeakable and pandemic proportions” in some countries.

Mr. Ban announced he will soon appoint a UN envoy tasked entirely with advocating for an end to violence against women.

Opening today’s meeting, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the truest test of the will of the international community was the protection it gave to the most vulnerable.

“When women and girls are raped, we cannot be silent… we must be their advocates,” Ms. Rice said.

See a second report here. Security Council report and resolution text here. The text of Resolution 1820 (2008) is listed below the fold.

International law develops quickly, but often out of sight of most people. This action is another in a long string of international agreements that build on the laws of war, and the laws of human rights. As part of the string of treaties including the Geneva Conventions on war, this offers a 21st century turn on the laws that gave rise to the International Red Cross, the rules of war, the war crimes trials following World War II, the drive for NATO and the UN to intervene in Bosnia, and it provides commentary on events and genocides in Turkey, World War II China and Europe, Cambodia, Guatemala, San Salvador, Rwanda, Congo and Darfur — and other places we don’t even know about yet. Each class will differ; these materials suggest topics for in-class debates about current issues seen through a lens of the experience of history.

The resolution and debates offer opportunities for Document Based Questions for AP and pre-AP course practice.

A look at some of the events in a reverse chronology of the issue, from the archives of the New York Times, reveals both the difficulty of getting this simple acknowledgement made, and the horrors of rape as a tactic or weapon.

Other Resources:

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