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Grassroots activist, feminist, sociologist, poop talk pro, future foster mom, travel whore, thrift store junky, music and food consumer.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Genocide, as an act of collective violence, is driven by cultural myths, and perhaps even more so than lynching (see previous post), by technology. As acts of collective violence, the goal of genocide, which includes ethnic cleansing, is to eliminate a population. It appears that the terms differ on what the UN determines as intent: genocide being “annihilation,” and ethnic cleansing being “relocation” (Bergoffen 2006:22). However, genocide and ethnic cleansing should not be separated on such a claim. As it stands, the strategic implementation of rape as a major part of an agenda to eliminate a population is not suitable for intervention by the UN. This determination states that the murder of men is more detrimental than the massive rape of women. What the UN fails to realize is the reason why the massive rape of women is implemented: it accomplishes the same goal of elimination that violent mass murders do. “[I]nstead of gas chambers, women’s bodies [are] used as weapons of ethnic destruction” (quoted in Bergoffen 2006:2; Barstow 2000:9).

Ethnic cleansing should be recognized as a form of genocide - cultural genocide - because the objective of elimination remains intact (Stone 2004). In furthering this notion, even in conflicts registered as genocide by the UN, rape was strategically implemented as a means to accomplish the objective of elimination. For instance, strategic rape in the Rwandan genocide was so carefully planned that in 1997 “70 percent of Rwanda’s population [was] female, and of the adults and adolescents, observers agree that the vast majority [had] lived through rape” (Flanders 2000:97).

The Bosnian-Herzegovina conflict is what initially sparked the use of the term 'ethnic cleansing.' Since my research utilizes narratives from which to draw conclusions, it only makes sense that we allow the women involved to provide clarity in the genocide-ethnic cleansing debate. Just like with black women during the lynching era (see previous post), the women involved as rape victims in the Bosnian-Herzegovina conflict told their stories. These women lived in both Bosnia and Croatia, and were largely members of the Muslim communities. The perpetrators were primarily Serbian soldiers who did not discriminate on account of territorial borders. These women’s bodies were held captive as property of the State. It is evident through the stories that the women who lived through it describe it as strategic rape in which their bodies were used to accomplish the agenda of elimination.

Hatiza (Stiglmayer 1994:92): She was taken to a camp and told that she would soon have a kid in her belly. She was taken to the cellar of the school building and raped there. “They did it to humiliate us. They were showing their power. They stuck guns in our mouths. They tore our clothes. They showed the ‘Turkish women’ they were superior.”

Sadeta(Stiglmayer 1994:93-97): She was instructed to march out of her village, but along the way, she and a group of all women were told to wait in a courtyard for further instructions. One of the soldiers retrieved her and another woman. They were taken to an empty house. They were given orders about ‘what [they] had to do, how [they] had to act,’ to get what had become two men excited and then satisfy the men. They were told to get cleaned up and get dressed and then they were returned to the courtyard. About 15 minutes later, she was taken away and brought to another house in which the commander waited, because he had requested her. She was ordered inside of a bedroom and told to lie on the bed. The commander fondled and kissed her. She says that he saw that she wasn’t feeling anything, just lying there staring into space. She looked him in his eyes and asked if he had a wife, a sister. Then asked him how he would feel if someone did to his sister what he was doing to her. He jumped up and told her to get dressed and leave. Her and the other women, minus the woman she was raped alongside on the first occasion were allowed to leave. “Maybe that’s their way of hurting Muslim women and Croatian women, and the whole female race. Killing them isn’t interesting enough to them anymore. It’s a lot more fun to torture us, especially if they get a woman pregnant. They want to humiliate us…and they’ve done it too.”

Mirsada (Stiglmayer 1994:109): “They put their fingers into me all over, to see if I was hiding money anywhere. Then four of them raped me, one after the other. They told us we were going to give birth to Serbian children and they would do everything they could so we wouldn’t even dare think of coming back again. After the fourth guy, I fainted. If I hadn’t fainted, they’d have kept on going.” Her four year old daughter was in the next room and could see everything.

Ziba (Stiglmayer 1994:119-121): “My daughter was raped along with me. First he raped me, and then I had to watch while he raped my little girl.” Her daughter, 14 years old, suffered from bleeding and infections for months afterward. “I saw about seven or eight little girls who died after they were raped. I saw how they took them away to be raped and then brought them back unconscious. They threw them down in front of us, and we weren’t allowed to look at them; you had to keep looking at the floor the whole time…” “They wanted to kill us slowly, torture us to death, they wanted us to suffer, they wanted to show us in every way they could that they were stronger.”

Barstow, Anne Llewellyn. 2000. “Introduction” and “Part One: Sexual Slavery.” Pp. 1-12 in War’s Dirty Secret, edited by Anne Llewellyn Barstow. Cleveland, Ohio: The Pilgrim Press.

Bergoffen, Debra B. 2006. “From Genocide to Justice: Women’s Bodies as a Legal Writing Pad.” Feminist Studies. 32 (1):11-37.

Flanders, Laura. [1995, 1997] 2000. “J’Accuse!” Pp. 157-164 in War’s Dirty Secret, edited by Anne Llewellyn Barstow. Cleveland, Ohio: The Pilgrim Press.

Stiglmayer, Alexandra. 1994. “The Rapes in Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Pp 82-169 in Mass Rape: The War against Women in Bosnia-Herzegovina, edited by Alexandra Stiglmayer. University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln, Nebraska.

Stone, Dan. 2004. “The Historiography of Genocide: Beyond ‘Uniqueness’ and Ethnic Competition.” Rethinking History, March, 8(1):127-142.


  1. In a Darwinian sense, killing someone is indeed similar to hijacking her reproductive system - the result is that the rapist's genes are perpetrated while the genes of male members of the conquered people are not - in that sense, raping a woman is like killing a man. If the woman does become pregnant and the pregnancy is allowed to come to term, the woman then must deal with the social consequences of giving birth to the enemy's offspring. This can often mean she and the child are both rejected and unsupported, and she must tie up a substantial period of her life caring for the child - or reject her own child.

  2. This is very true, and was the belief behind these massive rapes. Besides the brutality, the goal was to impregnate the women such that they bear Serbian offspring and get disowned by their families (esp under Muslim law). Now all we need to do is convince the UN, who happen to consist primarily of men.

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