Painting: The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Nicolas Poussin, Rome, 1637–38 (Louvre Museum)
War Crimes Against Women: Prosecution in International War Crimes Tribunals is a book written by Kelly Dawn Askin.
This book debates and discusses the history of war crimes against humanity and women in particular over several centuries of recorded wars. Even today, there are regulations in the Geneva convention for improper conduct during and after wars – the lines for which blur the definition of crimes against women and children.
The book emphasizes how it has been virtually impossible to try those accused of ghastly crimes against women under draconian laws. Crimes against women are considered only second to murder, but the jury is out on the deep physical and psychological impact it has on the victims. The tragedy the book highlights is of even greater nature – it shows how over centuries women were equated as the property of men and that victors could rightfully claim their ‘property’ in wars; it also discusses how by degrading women, men used to avenge their losses and put the loser’s side to shame.
The irony is that even though stories of mass torture were brought to the world’s notice and some courageous victims raised their voices to seek justice and struggled to request that their captors be put behind bars, there have been very few trials and those that have went on did not successfully try the accused. Mass crimes – those organized by the military for ethic cleansing or by simply looking the other way and giving a free hand are the two examples of crimes where it been most difficult to try the men in high ranks, making it difficult for tens and thousands of victims who are still waiting for closure.
I have recently taken to reading blogs that highlight the plight of women during World War I, World War II, Bosnian War, Rwandan War, Bangladesh Liberation War, and the more recent on ISIS atrocities in Syria towards Yazidi & Adhmedi women, and women of other communities. I also find it very disheartening that feminists both men and women who stir major controversies over women rights in property, right to abortion, burkini, lesbian rights- to name a few, make no noise for women who have been subjected to sexual crimes of the most heinous nature during wars and illegal occupation of territories in various parts of the world.
Blog after blog I read horror stories of how women were subjected to torture and death by militia. How blessed are we to not have seen or worst subjected to such savagery? When we say someone is uncivil or not worthy of being a gentleman because he does not hold a door behind for a woman or speaks over her; we have no idea what incivility is and how it can turn out to be. For those of us who are lucky to live in a world that is immune to such happenings, we must thank our governments, courts, civil police, and the army that safeguard us day and night.
While we would want the world to take notice of crimes and punish the men who brought suffering to countless women, we must also show gratitude towards those men who protect us.
Armies have both sides – they are the attackers and the defenders. While we are quick to appreciate their valor and may spare a tear or two on their deaths while they defend us, are we actually being mindful of what they are saving us from? Its a great honor to live in a country where the army is appreciated and respected for its behavior. Men who follow the Geneva convention and believe in ethical warfare. We can’t thank them enough for what they face every day. They keep us safe – emotionally and physically. While armies are deterrence to our enemies, they are also the ones who protect us. Let’s ponder over what can go wrong if we are attacked; if we don’t have these men on the border to protect us; only then can we mindful of what they truly deserve – our trust, our support, and our thoughts for them as they defend us on the borders very single day.