Rape, Representation, and Rights: Permeating International Law with the Voices of Women


Kalajdzic, Jasminka. 1995. “Rape, Representation, and Rights: Permeating International Law with the Voices of Women.” Queen’s Law Journal 21: 457.

Author: Jasminka Kalajdzic


The mass rapes of Bosnian women by Serb soldiers were a tool of war specifically used to systematically drive away women and their communities. This paper examines that phenomenon in light of representations of rape in current literature and the effort to develop a feminist understanding of rape. It considers the feminist debate over whether the mass rapes in Bosnia should be seen as a crime perpetrated against the women as female individuals or against the Bosnian community. The foundation for this examination is  adiscussion of three normative conceptions which affect international treatment of rape as a war crime - rape as part of the game of war, as an attack on community, and as terrorization and retailiation. The author then documents the exclusion of any conclusive mention of rape from the Hague Conventions (1907) and discusses the repercussions of its eventual definition in the later Geneva Conventions (1949). Finally, the author calls for gender-sensitive approaches to humanitarian assistance, for sensitive treatment of rape survivors, and for the injection of a female voice into humanitarian law.

Keywords: International Humanitarian Law, rape, Bosnia

Topics: Gender, Women, International Law, Rights, Women's Rights, Sexual Violence, Rape

Year: 1995

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