Rape as a Tactic of War

In the short documentary, Turning Pain into Power, viewers are exposed to a crisis happening in the Congo.  Hundreds and thousands of women and girls have been raped during the war, but this is often the “forgotten war within the war.”  In class, we talked about the film Calling the Ghosts.  I was really interested by what the rest of the class had to say but was also a bit surprised.  As the V-Day film points out, the atrocities committed against women and children during wartime are often not paid much attention.  For example, rape was not addressed in the article/movie about Rwanda, but was definitely present.  Prior to watching this film, I had barely heard of the conflict in Bosnia.  I felt this was a very important film to watch because it brought viewers together with the survivors.  Although statistics can be powerful, hearing someone’s story is a much more personal experience.

What I found most interesting in this film is that the women did not flee the country immediately.  One of the women in the film stayed behind three days after her husband, which ultimately led to her being taken to the rape camp.  This film has great potential to teach men and women around the world about war crimes against both men and women.  Although there was not much background information about the conflict, the film did what it intended to do, and did it well.

It is also important to realize who the perpetrators were in this situation.  Often times, people do not suspect that they are in danger if they are under military supervision.  In this film, we see the corruption of Serbian officials.  Unfortunately, this is not specific to this region of Europe.  Military and government corruption is prevalent all over the world, even in the United States.  Take, for example, the American policemen who have been caught have sex with underage prostitutes.  Although this is not a systematic tactic as it was in Bosnia or as it is in the Congo, it is still a serious problem.

The perpetrators in these situations all have something in common.  There is a false sense of entitlement that allows them to think they can dehumanize and destroy other human beings.  Their desire to control dominates their personality and leads to these atrocious crimes.  Rape is not about sex, but about power.  By running these rape camps, the military officials are constantly reminding the imprisoned men and women that they are “superior”.  I think this points to an underlying issue that serves as the basis for almost all conflicts between humans.  THE UDHR states that all humans are created equal but this idea is not practiced or recognized by the law or by individual mentalities.

Rape is used as a tactic of war but is not used only during armed conflict.  Hundreds and thousands of rapes occur each year in the United States alone.  Most of these crimes are committed by acquaintances, usually in the home.  Eve Ensler refers to this as “another kind of war.”  Turning Pain into Power encourages viewers to stop violating the world’s best resource, women.  I think this message is extremely powerful and very true.  As we keep learning about human rights violations, we will continue to see how women are victimized all around the world.


When the UN failed to charge two key offenders in the Bosnian rape camps, Bosnian women were furious and protested.

"Family members of victims of the torture camp in Omarska near the Western Bosnian town of Prijedor hold photos of excavated bodies of their relatives."

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