Rape and Sexual Violence: Questionable Inevitability and Moral Responsibility in Armed Conflict

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Abstract

Wartime sexual violence is a critical human rights issue that usurps the autonomy of its victims as well as their physical and psychological safety. It occurs in both ethnic and non-ethnic wars, across geographic regions, against both men and women, and regardless of the “official” position of commanders, states, and armed groups on the use of rape as tactic of war. This problem is current, pervasive, and global in spite of the status of wartime sexual violence perpetration as a crime against humanity and the capacity of the international criminal court to indict offenders. Though some scholars have argued that wartime rape is inevitable given a global patriarchal culture and the violent context of war, this argument upholds a problematic view of opportunistic sexual violence as an inevitable, anticipated side-effect of violent conflict. In order to counteract such harmful claims, this research examines two cases in which armed militant groups engaged in civil wars have limited the use of rape as a tactic of war. The examination of the cases of Sri Lanka and El Salvador may challenge the narrative of wartime rape inevitability and reinforce a framework through which perpetrators may be held accountable for sexual and gender-based war crimes. Further, this examination engages with the current body of sexual violence literature exploring not only the use of rape in armed conflict, but also the unique cases in which wartime rape is rare.

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Katherine Bogan

Katherine Bogan

Katherine Bogen '15 studies Political Science, English, with a concentration in Latin American and Latino Studies. She uses these three disciplines to examine global issues. Katherine completed her Honors thesis on women’s reproductive health, primarily focusing on the e ect of authoritarian regimes and democratic transition movements in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. Katherine has done additional research on the use of rape and sexual violence as a tactic of war, and independent research on gender and race in mentoring relationships in university and business settings. After Clark, Katherine hopes to pursue a Ph.D in Policy or Public Health to contribute to her understanding of feminist social issues, women’s rights, reproductive healthcare, and international reproductive health policy.