chapter  5
The turning points in the 1990s which created a new understanding of war rape
Pages 17

Before the outbreak of the Bosnian war, the 1990s started with a feeling of enthusiasm and op tim ism for the future. The Cold War was over, new demo cra­ cies were booming and some of the long-lasting conflicts in Latin Amer ica and Africa had come to an end. Displays of national pride and symbols in, for example, post-communist coun tries were regarded as pos it ive changes. Little did we know in 1990 that it would be precisely these national signs and symbols that would give rise to a new kind of war – war within states, and between people in or gan ized groups often with religious or ethnic charac ter istics (Tønnesson 2008: 127). These were wars of identity, where friends and family could turn against each other simply with the re cog ni tion that the Other was a Serb, Bosniak, Hutu or Tutsi. These were wars in which civilians were the prime target, and in which the weapons of war were not the latest in milit ary tech no logy, but knives, Kalashnikovs and rape. Consequently, it was these wars which changed the ways in which rape in war has come to be understood. Tompkins (1995: 852) has ele­ gantly summar ized the essence of this change in the fol low ing quote:

Rape, like geno cide, will not be deterred unless and until the stories are heard. People must hear the horrifying, think the unthinkable and speak the unspeakable.