|WR1003 War and Reconstuction in the Balkans|
Week 8 Gender, Nationalism and War
10. Women’s bodies became, like territory, that which was fought over.Ratko Mladic, leader of Bosnian Serb army, was interviewed on BBC2's Newsnight on 10 March 1994 - said Bosnia Serbs were engaged in war to 'protect women and children' and motivated by 'love and honour'.
(Source: Sofos S. 1996 'Inter-ethnic Violence and Gendered Constructions of Ethnicity in former Yugoslavia', Social Identities, 2/1, pp. 73-92).
That was not the message received by many men who joined armies and armed groups. For them, war was portrayed as an exciting male adventure which involved killing and having sexual access to women.
The military group developed a hyper-masculinity - they were separated from society and governed by their own codes.
Many women suffered from systematic rape, forced impregnation, forced prostitution, and denial of abortion.
According to Hughes, D., Mladjenovic, L. and Mrsevic, Z. in their 1995 article ‘Feminist resistance in Serbia’, (European Journal of Women’s Studies, 2: 4, pp 509-532), the Yugoslav National Army targeted maternity hospitals and set up camps to rape and prostitute women.
Eyewitness testimony indicates that most atrocities were committed by paramilitary forces under the control of Vojislav Seselj, leader of the Serbian Radical party, the notorious Serbian Zeljko Raznjatovic, better known as "Arkan", and Dobroslav Paraga, leader of the Croatian Law party. Some Bosnians concede that extremist Muslims from the Sandzak area of southern Serbia are also responsible.
According to Olujic (1995),the December 1992 European Community report said that 20,000 women have been raped by Bosnian Serb soldiers as "part of a deliberate pattern of abuse" where "rapes cannot be seen as incidental to the main purposes of the aggression but as serving a strategic purpose in itself" i.e. war rapes as a form of ethnic cleansing or genocide.
In many countries the female body personifies the nation.
'Women became symbols and property of the national community, markers of national identity. Their violation was reterritorialized by becoming primarily an act of ethnic violence instead of an expression of gender power relations.'
‘Thus, sexual violence against their women is but one of the ways to destroy their national pride, manhood and honor. What results is the commonly seen connection between sex and violence in war.’
Ethnic cleansing - not just women who leave the area after being raped - men do not want to return to an area where 'their women' have been raped.
'In these conditions, women were used as the means of revenge between men from different nationalities involved in the conflict. In this way, women suffered a wide range of violence and were manipulated as biological reproducers of both their own and their enemy's nation. Women were seen as the property of the men of the enemy nation and were raped and tortured in the most cruel ways.'
'The situation in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia provides a broader socio-cultural context of conflict between different groups of men. Acts of rape in this context not only attack women, they also humiliate the husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons of the victims because the demonstrate the men's inability to protect their women. This humiliation is especially intense in the Balkans where the honor/shame complex is so strong and female chastity is central to family and community honor'.
Rape victims report severe anxiety, sleeping disorders, nightmares, apathy, loss of confidence, depression and suicidal inclinations.
Albanese (2001) argues that in this period of war, previous sexual norms did not apply to men and their sexual abuse of women was condoned. But women were still judged on their ability to maintain their chastity and so many women were stigmatized by their rape. They were seen as unchaste because they did not fight off their attackers. This meant that many survivors of rape and forced prostitution kept quiet about their experiences.
'A sexually violated woman did not only fear the "enemy," however. She also feared the reactions of her husband, boyfriend, brothers, and male friends to her status as a "raped woman." ...The consequences of revealing one’s rape were often too grave. Most women chose to endure in silence rather than to risk the unknown. In this way, crimes against women went unrecorded in the registry of human atrocity'.
Men were also raped - 'At Bihac about a third of the men who have been in concentration camps have been raped and tortured. They might behave strangely but they will never talk about their feelings to their friends or wives because they feel that not only have they not protected their women, but they have been humiliated themselves'.
'WOMEN shall be especially protected . . . against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault,' says the Geneva Convention. But not much international concern until reports of thousands of women being raped in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Resolution 51/115, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, December 1996 Rape and abuse of women in the areas of armed conflict in the former Yugoslavia
February 2001 Yugoslav war Crimes Tribunal ruled that mass rape & sexual enslavement are a crime against humanity - second only to genocide - see The Guardian, 23/2/01
1. Introduction / 2. Context / 3. Chronology / 4. Women as Symbols / 5. Women as Reproducers / 6. Women as Keepers of the Home / 7. Limited Autonomy / 8. Women in Armed Groups / 9. Women Civilians / 10. Women's Bodies as Territory / 11. Militarization of Society / 12. Reading
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