'Giving Memory a Future': Confronting the Legacy of Mass Rape in Post-Conflict Bosnia-Herzegovina


Todorova, Teodora. 2011. “'Giving Memory a Future': Confronting the Legacy of Mass Rape in Post-Conflict Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Journal of International Women's Studies 12 (2): 3-15.

Author: Teodora Todorova


Responses to the prevalence of wartime rape in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the 1990s civil war has been characterised by a conflicting paradox between the international legal attempts by the ICTY to prosecute perpetrators, and Bosnian society’s silence, marginalisation of individual victims, and the pronounced desire to “forget” about certain aspects of wartime victimisation. Given that the contemporary prospects of retributive justice and inter-ethnic reconciliation in Bosnia-Herzegovina remain a distant prospect, the question of what can be done to reassert the ethical value of the victims of mass rape and violence continues to be of great importance. Minow’s response to this question is that even if the rigor of prosecution and punishment are not pursued, some other form of public acknowledgement, overcoming communal denial, is the very least that can be done to restore dignity to victims‟ (1998: 17).  Pertaining to this, women’s testimonies of wartime violation have resulted in the conception of critical and reflective cultural texts such as the two analysed in this paper. As if I Am Not There (Drakilić, 1999) and Esma’s Secret (Žbanić, 2006) attempt to confront Bosnian society about its neglect of the women who suffered wartime rape. The texts further broach the subject of the social significance of the children who were born as a result of these rapes. The underlying focus of these texts is an attempt to propose and work towards a vision of post-conflict Bosnian society based on a future of reconciliation and the refusal to differentiate along ethnic lines.

Keywords: post-conflict, narrative, reconciliation

Topics: Gender-Based Violence, Justice, War Crimes, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence, Rape Regions: Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina

Year: 2011

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