Making Race, Making Sex


Briggs, Laura. 2015. “Making Race, Making Sex.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 17 (1): 20–39. doi:10.1080/14616742.2013.855089.

Author: Laura Briggs


This article is interested in how biomedicine, psychology, and anthropology have produced the rape-able, violable Arab body that need not be the subject of law, national or international. In the 1970s, feminists argued that violence produced gender, that rape and the threat of rape made “women” as a social category, abuse-able and inferior. In the 1980s and beyond, feminist science studies has shown how science makes sex, gender and race, at the level of constructing the basic categories. This article argues that we can extend these feminist theoretical insights to explore the ways that torture is itself a science that racializes, that produces and relies on a notion of Arab-Muslim masculinity as distinct from that enacted in “the West,” a region that is produced alongside a Muslim “Orient.”

Keywords: Abu Ghraib, torture, feminism, rape

Topics: Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Justice, Religion, Rights, Human Rights, Sexual Violence, Rape, SV against Men, Terrorism, Torture, Sexual Torture Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2015

Reproductive Freedom, Torture and International Human Rights: Challenging the Masculinisation of Torture

Citation: Sifris, Ronli. 2013. Reproductive Freedom, Torture and International Human Rights: Challenging the Masculinisation of Torture. Routledge Research in Human Rights Law. London: Routledge.

Author: Ronli Sifris


This book contributes to a feminist understanding of international human rights by examining restrictions on reproductive freedom through the lens of the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Ronli Sifris challenges the view that torture only takes place within the traditional paradigm of interrogation, punishment or intimidation of a detainee, arguing that this traditional construction of the concept of torture prioritises the experiences of men over the experiences of women given that the pain and suffering from which women disproportionately suffer frequently occurs outside of this context. She does this by conceptualising restrictions on women’s reproductive freedom within the framework of the right to be free from torture.
The book considers the gendered nature of international law and the gender dimensions of the right to be free from torture. It examines the extension of the prohibition of torture to encompass situations beyond the traditional detainee context in recent years to encompass situations such as rape and female genital mutilation. It goes on to explore in detail whether denying access to abortion and involuntary sterilization constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under international law. The book looks at whether limitations on reproductive freedom meet the determining criteria of torture which are: severe pain or suffering; being intentionally inflicted; being based on discrimination; linked in some way to a State official; whether they constitute lawful sanctions; and the importance of the concept of powerlessness. In doing so the book also highlights how this right may be applicable to other gender-based abuses including female genital mutilation, and how this right may be universally applied to allow women worldwide the right to reproductive freedom.

Topics: Gender, Women, Health, Reproductive Health, International Law, International Human Rights, Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights, Torture

Year: 2013

Narratives and Testimonies of Women Detainees in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle


Hiralal, Kalpana. 2015. “Narratives and Testimonies of Women Detainees in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle.” Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity 29 (4): 34–44. doi:10.1080/10130950.2015.1104883.

Author: Kalpana Hiralal


South Africa's road to democracy was a product of the contributions of both men and women in the freedom struggle. Thousands of women risked their lives and sacrificed their families. In the post-apartheid era the narratives of the nationalist struggle have largely focused on popular and well known men and women, their experiences in exile and their role in the African National Congress (ANC) which led to the under-ground movement. This article seeks to document the lived experiences of women inmates and detainees in the liberation struggle, whose stories have remained in the shadows of dominant nationalist narratives. Thousands of women were arrested, subjected to naked body searches, torture, verbal abuse and sexual harassment. Women experienced both physical and psychological humiliation. This article argues that prison, despite being a "site of humiliation", repression, and subversion, also became a "site of female community and resistance" (Thapar-Bjorkert, 2006:12,25) and that women political prisoners were capable of challenging and negotiating their incarceration. This study challenges dominant narratives of the nationalist struggle by making women inmates and detainees crucial historical subjects and introduces the prison as another terrain of political struggle, resistance, confrontation, and negotiation in the telling of the liberation struggle.

Keywords: gender, prison, apartheid, Narratives, women detainees

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Health, Mental Health, Race, Sexual Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, Torture, Sexual Torture Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 2015

Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and the Policy Implications of Recent Research


Wood, Elizabeth Jean. 2014. “Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and the Policy Implications of Recent Research.” International Committee of the Red Cross 96 (894): 457–78.

Author: Elizabeth Jean Wood


Scholars increasingly document different forms of conflict-related sexual violence, their distinct causes, and their sharply varying deployment by armed organizations. In this paper, I first summarize recent research on this variation, emphasizing findings that contradict or complicate popular beliefs. I then discuss distinct interpretations of the claim that such violence is part of a continuum of violence between peace and war. After analyzing recent research on the internal dynamics of armed organizations, I suggest that widespread rape often occurs as a practice rather than as a strategy. Finally, I advance some principles to guide policy in light of recent research.

Keywords: conflict-related sexual violence, rape, sexual torture, civil war violence, causes of sexual violence, armed conflict

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Gender, Gender Mainstreaming, Sexual Violence, Torture, Sexual Torture

Year: 2014

Every Day the War Continues in My Body: Examining the Marked Body in Postconflict Northern Uganda


Hollander, Theo, and Bani Gill. 2014. “Every Day the War Continues in My Body: Examining the Marked Body in Postconflict Northern Uganda.” International Journal of Transitional Justice 8 (2): 217–34. doi: 10.1093/ijtj/iju007

Authors: Theo Hollander, Bani Gill


Human bodies have assumed centre stage in modern warfare, and few armed conflicts epitomize this more than the war in northern Uganda, where both rebel groups and government forces violated bodily integrity and altered human tissue to communicate messages, humiliate the enemy and their support base, and dominate both people and territory. The injuries and disabilities inflicted during wartime continue to affect people long after the conflict has come to an end. People whose bodies were ‘marked’ continue to embody the war in everyday activities in terms of pain, disabilities and loss of mobility. In other words, the war continues in their bodies. Most marked bodies struggle to conform gender performances to expectations. Furthermore, a decline in the productivity of people with marked bodies and failure to reciprocate mutual beneficial interaction leads to ruptures within social capital networks, resulting in widespread stigmatization and discrimination. Yet, focus on the body seems to be largely missing in peace processes and transitional justice. In the aftermath of armed conflict, where so many bodies have been marked, disability mainstreaming should become a quintessential element in transitional justice. This goes beyond medical interventions, meaning that in all transitional justice thinking and practice, attention is paid to how marked bodies can be included, participate and benefit. To ensure inclusion of marked bodies and other victim groups, more micro-analysis is needed that distinguishes survivor groups in terms of their day-to-day survival concerns, challenges, experiences, needs and aspirations.

Keywords: Uganda, disability, marked bodies, gender, memory

Topics: Gender, Women, Men, Masculinity/ies, Gender Roles, Health, Post-Conflict, Torture, Violence Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Uganda

Year: 2014

Female Perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide


Brown, Sara E. 2014. “Female Perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 16 (3): 448–69. doi:10.1080/14616742.2013.788806.

Author: Sara E. Brown


This article explores and analyzes the role of women who exercised agency as perpetrators during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Genocide narratives traditionally cast women as victims, and many women did suffer horrific abuses and become victims of torture in Rwanda. However, this gender-based characterization of women is inaccurate and incomplete. After presenting a multidisciplinary body of literature relevant to female agency during genocide, this article explores three core questions related to female agency during the Rwandan genocide. It discusses how women were mobilized before and during the genocide, the specific actions of women who exercised agency and finally what happened to these women in the aftermath of the genocide. This article is based upon research that was gathered by the author and includes interviews of female perpetrators as well as victims and witnesses of direct violence committed by women. The article asserts that women played an active role in the Rwandan genocide but are often excluded from the dominant narrative. This article also addresses the implications of ignoring female perpetrators of genocide. It suggests that such an oversight may have a detrimental impact on the long-term peace and stability in post-genocide Rwanda.

Keywords: gender studies, genocide, perpetrators, Rwanda, women

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Ethnic/Communal Wars, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Genocide, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual Violence, Female Perpetrators, Torture, Sexual Torture, Violence Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa Countries: Rwanda

Year: 2014

Sexual Torture of Palestinian Men by Israeli Authorities


Weishut, Daniel J. N. 2015. “Sexual Torture of Palestinian Men by Israeli Authorities.” Reproductive Health Matters 23 (46): 71–84. doi:10.1016/j.rhm.2015.11.019.

Author: Daniel J. N. Weishut


In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, arrests and imprisonment of Palestinian men in their early adulthood are common practice. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) collected thousands of testimonies of Palestinian men allegedly tortured or ill-treated by Israeli authorities. There are many types of torture, sexual torture being one of them. This study is based on the PCATI database during 2005-2012, which contains 60 cases – 4% of all files in this period – with testimonies of alleged sexual torture or ill-treatment. It is a first in the investigation of torture and ill-treatment of a sexual nature, allegedly carried out by Israeli security authorities on Palestinian men. Findings show that sexual ill-treatment is systemic, with 36 reports of verbal sexual harassment, either directed toward Palestinian men and boys or toward family members, and 35 reports of forced nudity. Moreover, there are six testimonies of Israeli officials involved in physical sexual assault of arrested or imprisoned Palestinian men. Physical assault in most cases concerned pressing and/or kicking the genitals, while one testimony pertained to simulated rape, and another described an actual rape by means of a blunt object. The article provides illustrations of the various types of sexual torture and ill-treatment of boys and men in the light of existing literature, and recommendations. 

Keywords: sexual violence, torture, human rights, Israel, Palestinian

Topics: Gender, Men, Sexual Violence, Male Perpetrators, Rape, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, SV against Men, Torture, Sexual Torture Regions: Africa, MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Israel, Palestine / Occupied Palestinian Territories

Year: 2015

Gender Apparatus: Torture and National Manhood in the U.S. War on Terror


Mann, Bonnie. 2012. “Gender Apparatus: Torture and National Manhood in the U.S. War on Terror.” Radical Philosophy: A Journal of Socialist and Feminist Philosophy 168 (2). 

Author: Bonnie Mann

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Masculinism, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Nationalism, Terrorism, Torture Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2012

Refugees, Race, and Gender: The Multiple Discrimination against Refugee Women


Pittaway, Eileen, and Linda Bartolomei. 2001. “Refugees, Race, and Gender: The Multiple Discrimination against Refugee Women.” Refuge 19 (6): 21-32.

Authors: Eileen Pittaway, Linda Bartolomei


This paper examines the intersectionality of race and gender in refugee situations, and the multiple forms of discrimination experienced by refugee women. It explores the notion of racism as a root cause of refugee generation, and the gendered nature of the refugee experience. The manner in which racism and sexism intersect to compound the human rights violations that refugee women experience is explored in the treatment of sexual violence in international and domestic law and policy; during armed conflict; in refugee camps; in countries of first asylum; and in countries of resettlement. Using a case study of one strand of refugee policy in Australia, it illustrates the impact of this discrimination on refugee women. The forthcoming World Conference against Racism offers a unique opportunity for this phenomenon to be addressed by the international community.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, IDPs, Refugees, Refugee/IDP Camps, Gender, Gender-Based Violence, Health, Mental Health, Trauma, International Law, International Humanitarian Law (IHL), International Organizations, Race, Rights, Human Rights, Sexual Violence, Male Perpetrators, Rape, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, SV against Women, Torture, Sexual Torture, Violence Regions: Asia, East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, Balkans, Oceania Countries: Australia

Year: 2001


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