Rape as a weapon of war. Rape is one of the "rules of war"--a widespread and systematic feature of armed conflict—one of the no-cost “spoils of war” that generals bestow upon their soldiers. While rape is certainly not a new weapon of war, women in Iraq and Syria are the targets of brutal oppression and sexual attacks perpetrated by the self-defined Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Among horrible acts too numerous to track, April 14 marked two years since nearly 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped from their school dormitory in Chibok, Nigeria by ISIS affiliated Boko Haram.
STAR*PAC believes the world can put an end to rape as a weapon of war.
There are new efforts to stop this most shameful consequence of conflict. The Boko Haram kidnapping sparked the global "Bring Back Our Girls" campaign. Main stream press in this country is paying attention including Time magazine’s article in their April 18 issue that argued the silence about this crime must end. The legal community has done its work to make clear that rape is recognized as a form of torture in international law--ISIS’s and their allies’ use of sexual slavery can be treated as a war crime, point-blank.
Last July a consortium of 56 international human-rights, legal, medical, and religious groups from 22 countries petitioned President Obama to issue an Executive Order affirming the rights of female war-rape victims to comprehensive medical care, including abortion, under the Geneva Conventions. (The Helms Amendment, a US law enacted in 1973 prevents foreign-aid funds from going to programs that also provide abortions. Since most international humanitarian medical organizations rely in some part of the US funding, the executive order has been requested).
Women’s rights advocates and their allies have gathered to discuss strategies and confer with representatives of government and civil society. Formal talks were held in Istanbul, Turkey this past January and the talks have continued. Grassroots activists like MADRE’s initiative “Ending Rape as a Weapon of War” on the ground in Iraq and Syria are already reaching out to survivors and their families with aid and counseling. Emergency escape routes to activist-run shelters have been created. Humanitarian groups visit refugee camps not only to bring relief supplies but to listen to women’s stories carefully and without judgment.
What should our elected officials do to be sure the dialogue continues? What should be done to reduce the risk to those who escape and to ensure they are welcomed upon return to their communities? What can be done to encourage husbands to stop the shameful abandoning, and worse, of their wives who return home?