Red Lines: Rape Is a Prohibited Weapon —NOT Collateral damage
World leaders continue to do a high-wire dance on the red line of Syria’s use of chemical weapons. Chemical weapons are prohibited for good reason. But, not all weapons are created equal. Take rape. Rape is an unlawful weapon during conflict, but how many states can you name that have been challenged for use of rape as a prohibited weapon?
Rape does not cause mass causalities in isolated, well defined incidents. Rape cannot seem over borders. Rape is, instead, a normalized aspect of everyday life, “acceptable” in ways that chemical weapons are not. Why do you think that is? Sexualized violence, particularly, in militarized zones where the weaponization of men’s bodies is more blunt and obvious, still appears to not “count” for much. Despite long-standing awareness of wartime atrocities caused by the use of rape, there have been no secret heads of state meetings or widespread international tensions caused by rape in conflict. In the past two decades, because of places like Darfur and Bosnia, we’ve begun to openly discuss the role rape plays in war, and see its pervasive and long-lasting effects. We cannot claim ignorance or silence anymore. Which leaves us with will. We lack the will to stop thinking of the rape of children and women during war as unavoidable collateral damage, the price that mainly women, physically, pay for men risking life doing war business. As it is, our attention comes to in a distasteful, vaguely pornographic way, in the sense of fascination with horror or atrocity propaganda, only after the fact when the reality of rape survivors is pitiless, overwhelming and undeniable.