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Gender Based Violence: Genocide in Rwanda

Research Paper (postgraduate) 2009 6 Pages

Women Studies / Gender Studies

Excerpt

Content

Open conflict phase
Individual level
Community level
State level

Post-conflict phase.
Individual level
Community level
State level

In the research paper I used Cordula Reimann’s paper “Roles of Women and Men in Violent Conflicts” (2004)[1], where she describes three different levels of defining roles of men and women – individual, community and state, as well as two main phases of conflict - open and post -conflict phase.

Open conflict phase

Individual level

As Reimann points out in an open conflict situation on the individual level both men and women participate in war and both men and women can be victims of sexual violence. Rwanda is a case where women were active participants in the war and sexual violence - from high in the chain of command to foot soldiers. The brutal violence could include rape. Many women were victims of sexual violence, prostitution, humiliation, personal or group slavery in and outside Rwanda (which has lasted also after the genocide). The victims were between two and fifty years old, including pregnant women (intersectionality – gender and age). Perpetrators even forced women to kill their children; many were tortured with their genitals mutilated. It is impossible to describe all these in words and perhaps Jonathan Torgovnik’s movie is one of the best which shows the impact rape had on women in Rwanda – 16 stories of women that can not be watched without tears.[2] As Cordula Reimann has pointed out: “without taking the gender-specific context of conflict and peace building into account, negotiation processes lack substance and legitimacy and this may jeopardize sustainability”.[3] Moreover, the mediator’s task is to raise gender-relevant issues.[4] Unfortunately, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has not managed to use gender-sensitive language: specifications of whose interests, fears and needs are concerned.[5] Thus, Tutsi women were violated on multiple levels: as Tutsis, as women, and as Tutsi women (intersectionality – gender and ethnicity). But the same is true also for Tutsi men. An analysis of their experiences and the attendant legal implications requires an understanding of the ways in which their multiple identities situated them within the conflict.[6] However, the analysis of genocide in Rwanda lacks the side of men, who were also victims of sexual violence.[7] What impact does rape have on men? What are the psychological and physical effects of rape on men etc.? Here we can also see the intersectionality and that the analysis of gender-based violence is more complicated and contradictory. Therefore intersectionality stimulates us to look for new ways of analysis. It also encourages us to engage critically with our assumptions.[8]

Community level

Reimann argues that on the community level women can take men’s traditional responsibilities, and men who are not involved in the war are under psychological and social pressure. However, she sees rape as an analytical category only for the individual rather than for both the individual and community level.

Rape and gender based violence in wartime is perhaps the most gender-specific aspect of conflict. Rape is a cheap, simple weapon in the war, more easily obtainable than guns and bullets. Moreover, rape is a specific and explicit strategy.[9] “When an ‘enemy’ rapes a woman, he is not only defiling her body, he is also destroying the culture symbolically by violating its ‘purity’ of blood (in the cases when the women becomes pregnant) and its status as morally pure by regarding the woman ‘damaged goods’.”[10]

Importantly, the act of rape also humiliates and ‘emasculates’ the targeted man in his role as protector of “women and children”[11] and of the nation (as symbolized) by the women’s body. The whole community is thus violated symbolically by the act of rape. In many cases, a woman who has been raped is cast out of her family and community in efforts to purge the community from the mark of the enemy.[12]

State level

Reimann argues that on the state level politicians and national media or propaganda use traditional gender stereotypes. In Rwanda gender hate propaganda was the main tool to destroy purity, spirit, the will to live, and life itself.[13] Media presented women as sexual objects (for example, cartoons illustrating sex with top politicians or even U.N. peacekeeping forces). Men of the ‘other’ community are usually portrayed in negative terms as ‘feminized’[14] and women as inferior to the ‘home’ women. As Schmeidl with Piza-Lopez noted, media propaganda and increased sexualized targeting of women of the ‘other community’ contributes to increased incidents of rape and sexualized harassment. ‘Hate media’ prior to the genocide in Rwanda offers a telling example of such dynamics.[15]

Post-conflict phase

Individual level

Reimann concludes that in a post conflict situation on the individual level women and men suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a consequence of violence, torture and killings. This has also a gender-specific nature: female ex-combatants have different sexual and reproductive health needs than men. There is also social exclusion and socio-cultural discrimination against women. Conflict reduces the chances of marriage for women and doubles their workload.

[...]


[1] Reimann, Cordula (2004):“Roles of Women and Men in Violent Conflicts”. The Centre for peacebuilding KOFF Info Sheet, Swisspeace http://www.swisspeace.ch/typo3/fileadmin/user_upload/pdf/InfoSheet1_RolesOf.pdf (accessed on 23rd November 2009)

[2] Torgovnik, Jonathan (2008) Intended consequences http://www.mediastorm.org/0024.htm (accessed on 23rd November 2009)

[3] Reimann, Cordula (Swisspeace/CSS-ETH Zürich) (2008): “Gender and Peace Mediation. Peace Mediation Essentials, MSP”, p. 1

[4] Swisspeace/CSS-ETH Zürich (2009): “Towards Realizing the Strengths and Mitigating the Challenges of NGO Mediators. Final Report of Consultation Process. MSP”, p. 8

[5] Reimann, Cordula (Swisspeace/CSS-ETH Zürich) (2008): “Gender and Peace Mediation. Peace Mediation Essentials, MSP”, p. 6

[6] Green, L Llzelie (2002): Sexual violence and Genocide against Tutsi women. The University of Dayton http://academic.udayton.edu/race/06hrights/georegions/Africa/Rwanda01.htm (accessed on 22rd November 2009)

[7] Bouta, Tsjeard (2005): Gender and Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration. http://www.clingendael.nl/publications/2005/20050300_cru_paper_bouta.pdf (accessed on 22rd November 2009)

[8] Davis, Kathy (2008) “Intersectionality as buzzword”, Utrecht University, Feminist Theory, SAGE Publications.

[9] Stern, Maria; Nystrand Malin (2006): Gender and Armed Conflict. SIDA http://www.humansecuritygateway.com/documents/SIDA_GenderArmedConflict.pdf (accessed on 22rd November 2009)

[10] Rehn, Elisabeth & Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (2002) Women, War and Peace – The Independent Expert’s Assessment on the Impact of Armed Confl ict on Women and Women’s Role in Peace-Building, UNIFEM

[11] Stern, Maria; Nystrand Malin (2006): Gender and Armed Conflict. SIDA http://www.humansecuritygateway.com/documents/SIDA_GenderArmedConflict.pdf (accessed on 22rd November 2009)

[12] Omanyondo, Ohambe et al. (2005) Women’s Bodies as a battle ground. RFDA/ RFDP, International Alert

[13] Bouta, Tsjeard (2005): Gender and Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration. http://www.clingendael.nl/publications/2005/20050300_cru_paper_bouta.pdf (accessed on 22rd November 2009)

[14] Sisson Runyan, Anne (2002), ‘Still Not “At Home” in IR: Feminist World Politics Ten Years Later’, International Politics, Vol 39 No. 3

[15] Stern, Maria; Nystrand Malin (2006): Gender and Armed Conflict. SIDA http://www.humansecuritygateway.com/documents/SIDA_GenderArmedConflict.pdf (accessed on 22rd November 2009)

Details

Pages
6
Year
2009
ISBN (eBook)
9783640653232
File size
394 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v153259
Institution / College
Central European University Budapest
Grade
A-
Tags
Gender Based Violence Genocide Rwanda

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Title: Gender Based Violence: Genocide in Rwanda