|Angelina Jolie and William Hague at|
Global Summit to End Sexual Violence
in Conflict (London, June 2014)
Over countless centuries war has been followed by two further atrocities – pillage and rape. So much have pillage and rape hung onto the coat tails of war that the three are almost like triplets: war, rape and pillage. Understanding that rape has been used as a weapon of war historically, US Secretary of State (John Kerry) told conference delegates that it was time to “banish the crime to the history books where it belongs."
It is laudable that a senior government representative and a Hollywood star want to get rid of one of those triplets. Angelina Jolie rightly condemned rape being used as a weapon of war. Noting that rape is used as a weapon of war against civilians, she proclaimed that “it has nothing to do with sex, everything to do with power.” Absolutely right Angelina.
It is easy to focus on instances of rape in places like Bosnia, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and other such places. This conveniently forgets that rape has been used by western nations also, in both World Wars, the Vietnam War and more recently by western forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
All military forces, it seems, are culpable. It is a problem within the military. It is a military problem. It is a problem about power (as Jolie states).
There is the problem, right there: power. The desire on the part of one person to gain domination over another, or one nation to gain domination over another, or (in this context) also the desire by one gender to gain domination over the other.1
So Let’s Not Stop There.
Yes, rape must be condemned as a weapon of war. Moreover, rape must be condemned as a weapon per se, whether it be used in a war setting or in peacetime.
If the violence of rape can be condemned as a weapon of war in conflict situations, why can we not condemn all forms of violence? In the next few years, how might we (to use John Kerry’s words) banish warfare to the history books where it belongs?
Let’s stop all violence in war. Jolie is absolutely right. The problem is not about sex, the problem is about power. War is the ultimate expression of power. So, if we want to get at the heart of the problem, let’s find ways to resolve conflict, without recourse to warfare.
1. This should not be read as suggesting that same-sex or rape of men by women does not exist. Most rape however, is perpetrated on women by men.