Is War Gendered?

Although war affects all citizens, regardless of gender or age, it is inherently gendered and particularly harsh for women. I completely stand by Pamela Delargy’s assertion that conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), particularly against women, is difficult to attribute to one cause, as it is largely dependent on the specific conflict involved. Treatment of and prevention for potential victims of CSRV also proves challenging, not only because the foundations of CRSV can be so muddled, but also because of cultural restraints and the risk of doing more harm than good to those affected.

A variety of reasons for the level and prevalence of sexual violence toward women exist. Some argue that rape is simply in the biological nature of the male, and that aggression toward females is only repressed because of societal taboos (Delargy). Relatedly, the patriarchal societies in which many victims live perpetuate a culture of women as property, or as lesser beings than men. Both of the aforementioned justifications fail to completely explain why CRSV is used as a war strategy however. Soldiers may rape the enemies’ women for multiple reasons related to strategic conflict, some of which are to demoralize the community, dilute the bloodlines, and ensure that the enemy leaves the territory and does not return. (Delargy).

While obviously all efforts to help survivors of CRSV are well intentioned, many have consequences in the affected communities. Punishment of rapists can lead to retaliation, or make it more likely for them to kill their victims to avoid punishment (Delargy). In some societies, it is unfavorable for a woman to even admit to having been raped for fear of disownment by her family. This makes it hard for victims to seek necessary medical and psychological help. Delargy points to support from the community as a usually positive mitigation for survivors, something that the UN Security Council is trying to increase in Syria (UN News Centre). Sexual violence has been used as a war tactic for the past five years in Syria, and efforts to help female victims heal and reintegrate into societies have been set to increase in light of a recent meeting of the Council.

Delargy, Pamela. “Sexual Violence and Women’s Health in War.” Women and Wars. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2013. Print.

“‘Status Quo Simply Cannot Continue in Syria’ – UN Humanitarian Chief.” UN News Centre. UN, 16 Nov. 2015. Web. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52571#.VlI3c2SrQy4