Table of Contents
As it was stated in the previous paper, rape of women during wars has been recognized as the “legitimate right” of a soldier since the most ancient times. Sexual violence is an attribute of all conflicts, and the current state of affairs is not an exception. According to a report issued by Amnesty International, “military culture typically prizes aggression and reinforces male stereotypes, while devaluing attributes traditionally associated with women” (Amnesty.org, 2004). It is not only rape that can be considered as violence against women. Ward (2002) argues that violence can be physical, sexual, psychological, economic, social, and cultural (Ward, 2002). The problem of rape during conflicts has appeared only recently, with coming of different civil rights movements. For centuries, it has been considered as minor and unimportant. Today, situation has changed.
Things to Change
The UN report, Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict (1998), states that rape was traditionally considered in the armies as a usual way of remuneration. As in many societies, women were regarded as “property”; the winners often raped women and took them into sexual slavery as war booty. As it is indicated in the report, before the Second World War, rape was seen as inevitable and unpleasant reality of military conflict. Despite several international conventions, “the absence of express reference to sexual violence as a grave breach is a reflection of the international community’s historical failure to appreciate the seriousness of sexual violence during armed conflict” (The UN Report, 1998, p. 6)
Numerous reasons and grounds for rape during wars were discussed in the previous paper. The aim of this paper is to discuss possible solutions to this issue. Since changing men’s psychology seems improbable, the means to improve the situation refer to the social sphere. As a matter of fact, typical forms of violence against women in armed conflict do not occur “naturally” and are the result of deliberately given orders, indifference, or tolerance. Violence does not stop, because the perpetrators are well aware that they personally are not in danger. Justice is a key condition for ending violence against women. Justice is not just a tool, it is power. Justice confirms that rape and sexual assault are a crime. Justice restores human dignity. Justice, moreover, is the most important step to prevent further crimes. This is a warning to potential criminals that violence will no longer be tolerated.
When efforts to prevent a conflict fail, one of the priorities should be to protect the civilian population wherever civilians are being attacked and women raped. Over the past decade, the UN Security Council has repeatedly extended the mandate of UN peacekeepers, so that they can physically protect civilians against the threat of violence. Currently, UN peacekeeping missions on a regular basis help national authorities establish effective mechanisms to investigate serious violations of law and prosecute those responsible for them. Also, special measures are taken to protect women and girls from sexual violence.
Today, if a state is unwilling or unable to perform the necessary actions within its jurisdiction in respect to the alleged rapists, the International Criminal Court (ICC) may conduct investigations and prosecute those who bear the greatest responsibility. The ICC is a permanent tribunal, independent from the United Nations, which is located in The Hague, the Netherlands, and which considers crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes. It was created on July 1, 2002. In March 2012, the court issued the first sentence for war crimes to one of the leaders of the militants accused of the recruitment of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As far as rape is considered a war crime, this court can prove useful in improving the situation.
In the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity are defined as crimes against humanity when committed on a widespread or systematic basis.
While international courts have been successful in bringing to justice those responsible for rape during the conflict, national courts in the countries, where such crimes take place, have yet to achieve similar success. Many countries have no laws and lack effective judicial system to prosecute offenders. As a result, justice can wait for many years. This is unacceptable.
Although changes in national legislation are important measures to punish the guilty and to eradicate such crimes, they will not succeed without a fundamental change in attitudes towards sexual abuse of women. Sexual violence, whether in peacetime or in wartime, should be recognized by all as a horrible crime which is not accepted by society and should be severely punished.
The inevitability of punishment is the only way to stop violence. Examples from history show that only strict discipline in the military can force soldiers to stop violence against civil population. Alexander the Great, who ordered to execute his soldiers for raping women of the Persian city of Sardis, became an example for future military leaders. Strict punishment is, in fact, the only effective means of preventing rape. The only question is how strict this punishment can be. Today death sentences are rare in civilized countries, but war has nothing to do with civilization. War is an accumulation of ancient instincts, the main of which is self-preservation. Soldiers fighting in conflict zones see death every day and rape stops to look like a crime at all. The national and international bodies must prove this wrong. Punishment must be quick and strict. And it should have no exceptions.