Rape, Love and War - Personal or Political?

Citation:

Ericsson, Kjersti. 2011. "Rape, Love and WarPersonal or Political?" Theoretical Criminology 15 (1): 67-82.

Author: Kjersti Ericsson

Abstract:

This article discusses how war rapes and consensual sexual relationships with enemy soldiers are framed and understood, with special emphasis on the consequences for the women involved. It [examines] war rapes in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the Balkan war and Danish and Norwegian women's sexual relationships with German occupant soldiers during the Second World War. I argue that the conception of women's sexuality as national property is central to understanding the attitudes towards both categories of women. To preserve their dignity, war rape victims may profit from a collective, political discourse. Women having had consensual relationships [with] enemy soldiers, however, have to extricate themselves from the collective and political discourse and interpret what happened to them as strictly personal.

Keywords: war rape, coping strategies, nation, sexuality, victim

Annotation:

Uses empirical research that has been done in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Denmark, Norway (latter countries in the post-WWII era). (Ericsson 67-70)

Quotes:

"Rape used as a weapon of war demonstrates that women in one sense are objects of men's transactions in this context: they are not violated as individual women, but as the nation's women: the attack on their sexuality is an affront to the national collective of men." (71)

"Despite this, not even war rape victims in Bosnia-Herzegovina could escape the suspicion that they might have been implicated in their own violation." (73)

"The stories of the Norwegian war children make one wonder: how will the mothers of children conceived through war rapes deal with questions from their sons and daughters when they want to know who their father is?" (76)

"To put it very shortly: relief for the rape victims lies in framing themselves as part of the collective, while for someone with consensual relations it lies in framing themselves as individuals." (77)

"Skjelsbæk mentions a fatwa issued by the imam of Sarajevo in 1994, a fatwa that both she and several of her interviewees deem very important.  In the fatwa, the imam declared that Bosnian women who had been subjected to sexual violence ought to be looked upon as war heroes.  The message that war rape victims were to be considered war heroes, and not least the source of this message, a religious authority, made this alternative conception a possible resource, both to individual women that had experienced rape, and for therapeutic work with rape victims." (77)

"On the other hand, if rape is understood mainly in a gendered frame of reference, the woman feels her female identity as damaged, and shame, guilt, and silence is the result." (78)

"However, if solidarity with raped women is made contingent upon a strong identification with the ethnic group, the woman as an autonomous individual may be seen as less important.  Even if the rape victim, through the ethnic interpretation, may escape being constructed as a woman of questionable morals, or as 'damaged goods' as Skjelsbæk  points out, other aspects of patriarchal patterns may nevertheless assert themselves….Some of the health workers interviewed by Skjelsbæk  also feel that there has been an increase in violence against women in post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina.  If this holds true, it fits with a conception of woman's body belonging to her ethnic or national group in the patriarchal sense, an ownership that is threatened in war and may have to be reinforced in post-war times.  If there has really been a backlash, this may perhaps be a manifestation of the sinister side of the notion linking a woman's body very strongly to her ethnic group." (79)

 

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Ethnicity, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Security, Sexual Violence, Rape, SV against women, Sexuality Regions: Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe, Nordic states, Northern Europe Countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Denmark, Norway

Year: 2011

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