Genocidal rape

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Genocidal rape is the action of a group which has carried out acts of mass rape against its enemy during wartime as part of a genocidal campaign. Mass rapes have been an integral part of various armed conflicts and have brought the concept of genocidal rape to international prominence. Although war rape has been a recurrent feature in conflicts throughout history, it has usually been looked upon as a by-product of conflict, and not an integral part of military policy.

The act of genocidal rape is considered to be both a war crime and a crime against humanity.

Some scholars argue that the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide should state that mass rape is a genocidal crime. Other scholars argue that genocidal rape is already included in the definition under article two of the convention. Catherine MacKinnon argues that the victims of genocidal rape are used as a substitute for the entire ethnic group, that rape is used as a tool, with the target being the destruction of the entire ethnic group.

Siobhan Fisher has argued that forced impregnation and not the rape itself constitutes genocide. She says, "Repeated rape alone is still ‘just’ rape, but rape with the intent to impregnate is something more." Lisa Sharlach argues that this definition is too narrow because these mass rapes should not be defined as genocide based solely on those raped having been forcibly impregnated.

According to Amnesty International, the use of rape during times of war is not a by-product of conflicts, but is a pre-planned and deliberate military strategy. In the last quarter of a century, the majority of conflicts have shifted from wars between nation states to communal and intrastate civil wars. During these conflicts the use of rape as a weapon against the civilian population by state and non-state actors has become more frequent. Journalists and human rights organizations have documented campaigns of genocidal rape during conflicts in Former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Liberia, Sudan, Uganda, and during the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The strategic aims of these mass rapes are twofold. The first is to instill terror in the civilian population, with the intent to forcibly dislocate them from their property. The second is to degrade the chance of possible return and reconstitution by having inflicted humiliation and shame on the targeted population and to decrease social cohesion of a targeted group. These effects are strategically important for non-state actors, as it is necessary for them to remove the targeted population from the land. Rape as genocide is well suited for campaigns which involve ethnic cleansing and genocide, as the objective is to destroy, or forcefully remove the target population, and ensure they do not return.

One objective of genocidal rape is forced pregnancy, so that the aggressing actor not only invades the targeted population's land, but their bloodlines and families as well. However, those unable to bear children are also subject to sexual assault. Victims’ ages can range from children to women in their eighties.

Conflicts where genocidal rape has occurred