chapter  6
18 Pages

Sub silentio

The sexual assault of women in international law
WithSarah Gendron

The wholesale devaluation of sexual violence against women was likely the product of long-held beliefs that women's bodies fell within the domain of legitimate plunder of war. While the admonishment of sexual assault in the 1899 Hague Convention marked a momentous step forward regarding the normative prohibition of rape in international humanitarian law (IHL), it was also a step backwards in the abstruse description of the act. The report of the War Crimes Commission for the Peace Conference intimated that sexual assaults of women and girls were not terribly serious crimes by placing rape lower than torture on the list of war crimes; at numbers five and three respectively. In spite of new understandings of gender relations and advancements in women's rights on the home front, nearly a century of violent sexual assaults took place before the language and practice of law would coincide with the reality of war.