International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 24: The gender of violence in war and conflict
Very few scholars or policy-makers deny that gendered violence happens during war and conflict. The evidence that war rape is prevalent across all sorts of wars and conflicts is significant enough that it has come to be recognized not only by scholars, but by myriad international organizations, including, but not limited to, the United Nations Security Council, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, UNICEF, Physicians for Human Rights, and a number of international tribunals looking for wartime and post-war justice. While some conceptualizations of her situation have been highly problematic and some policy reactions to what happened to her have been inadequate, there is a near-universal recognition in global politics that what happened to Ziba in Bosnia-Herzegovina constituted gender-based violence in conflict, and that such violence is normatively unacceptable. At the same time, the very same institutions that have come to recognize Ziba’s experience as gender-based violence in war often define it narrowly: gender-based violence in conflict is sexual in nature, victimizes women, and happens in the context of fighting perpetrated by armed combatants. Advocacy and jurisprudence around gender-based violence in conflict often exclude by definition Andrea’s experience (which was in New York in 1970, and therefore not in a context traditionally thought of as a war), the hungry Syrian girl’s experience (which was not sexual in nature), and Jean Paul’s experience (which happened to a man).
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