This post summarises a piece for the European Journal of International Relations just published online. An inconsequentially different pre-publication version is also available for anyone unable to breach the pay wall.
UPDATE (8 March): Sage have kindly made the full EJIR paper open access until early April, so you can now get it directly that way too.
I’m sure you have reasons
A rational defence
Weapons and motives
But I can’t help thinking
It’s still all disease.
Fugazi, ‘Argument’ (2001)
‘Weapon of War’ could be many explanations and I’m not sure of any of them.
UNHCR official, Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, June 2010
1. War Rape in the Feminist Imaginary
Rape is a weapon of war. Such is the refrain of practically all contemporary academic research, political advocacy and media reporting on wartime sexual violence. Once considered firmly outside the remit of foreign policy, rape is today labelled as a ‘tactic of war’ by US Secretaries of State who pledge to eradicate it and acknowledged as a war crime and constituent act of genocide at the highest levels of international law and global governance, a development which for some amounts to the ‘international criminalization of rape’. This idea of rape as a weapon of war has a distinctly feminist heritage. Opposed to the historical placement of gendered violence within the hidden realm of the private, feminist scholarship was the first to draw out the connections between sexual violence and the history of war, just as feminists fought to make rape in times of nominal peace a matter for public concern. Feminist academics have, then, pioneered a view of sexual violence as a form of social power characterised by the operations and dynamics of gender. Sexual violence under feminist inquiry is thus politicised, and forced into the public sphere.
But the consensus that rape is a weapon of war obscures important, and frequently unacknowledged, differences in our ways of understanding and explaining it. Continue reading