chapter  5
24 Pages

Genocide and the Politics of Rape: historical and psychological perspectives

ByRoger W. Smith

Rape is such a pervasive aspect of the history of genocide that it is surprising that until recently little attention has been paid to it. 1 On the other hand, there has been little recognition generally that victimization in genocide often follows lines of gender. Here I focus on sexual violence against women because it has historically been more common than that against men. And for women some of the consequences are quite different: pregnancy and the different possibilities that entails, including keeping the child, which will be seen as a badge of dishonor for both the woman and the ethnic community; the act of rape, and her likely rejection by her community, turning the pregnant woman into a killer herself, with children of rape being smothered at birth or abandoned in the fi elds. Males do suffer sexual violence too: rape, mutilation, continuing shame. It probably has been a facet of genocide for centuries, but one can certainly fi nd examples of it in Bosnia, of mutilation in Rwanda, and of violation of male children, as well as adults, during the Armenian genocide. My guess is that the functions of rape and other forms of sexual violence against males and females overlap, but diverge in certain respects, and that culture will play a large role in the meaning of the violations and what they consist of, for both perpetrators and victims.