by Tirza Reinata
Allow me to begin my speech by quoting a statement made by an eye witness from the Nanking massacre, China.
“It is a horrible story to relate; I know not where to begin or to end. Never have I heard or read of such brutality: rape. Thirty girls were taken from the language school last night, and tonight a truck passed in which there were eight or ten girls, and as it passed they called out “Jiu ming! Jiu ming!”—save our lives.”
Throughout these weeks, we have heard and studied different atrocities: the Holocaust, Khmer Rouge, Stalin’s regime, and many more.
And we have learnt how brutal and inhumane the actions were, and how millions of unspeakable innocent deaths were occurred.
However, for some people, especially women, the word “death” might not be as frightening as “rape”. And worse, rape in war and conflicted situation, where there is no law and order to protect citizens in general, and weaker group of people in particular.
Over the years, rape is used as a mean of warfare; and its strength, indeed, can be as powerful – if not, more powerful – than any other military weapons.
Rape is used as means of psychological warfare in order to humiliate the enemy and undermine their morale. Rapes in war are often systematic and thorough, and military leaders may actually encourage their soldiers to rape civilians. Likewise, systematic rapes are often employed as a form of ethnic cleansing or genocide.
This horrifying method was employed during the Japanese invasion over the city of Nanking, China, or what we know as “The Rape of Nanking” in 1937. The similar method also occurred during the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, 1995, the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, and in fact, if we want to scrutinize each and every war or massacre in our history, we will find this life-traumatic crime as integral part of violence and genocide.
Interestingly, the crime “rape” itself has not being taken into account in defining “genocide”. People tend to differentiate “genocide” and “rape”.
The Japanese rape of women in the Korea and Indonesia was not addressed in The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTTE) in Tokyo, 1946.
The mass rape accompanying the Soviet conquest of eastern Germany in 1944-45 were not mentioned at the Nuremberg war crimes trials of 1945-46.
This leads to a question: can rape be constituted as genocide?
Well, I would quote some atrocities that occurred during the Rape of Nanking to describe how awful mass rape can be. They don’t name it “The Rape of Nanking” for nothing. The Japanese soldiers were literally raping the city of Nanking, its women, children, men, elders, toddlers, and even animals.
According to The International Military Tribunal for the Far East, 20,000 women were raped during the Rape of Nanking, their ages ranging from infants to the elderly (as old as 80). Rapes were often performed in public during the day, sometimes in front of spouses or family members that were tied up and forced to watch.
A large number of them were systematized in a process where soldiers would search door-to-door for young girls, with many women taken captive and gang raped. The women were then killed immediately after the rape, often through mutilation, including breasts being cut off, or stabbing by bamboo (usually very long sticks), bayonet, butcher’s knife and other objects into the genital.
There are even stories of Japanese troops forcing families to commit acts of incest. Sons were forced to rape their mothers; fathers were forced to rape daughters.
Monks who had declared a life of celibacy were forced to rape women for the amusement of the Japanese.
Chinese men were forced into intercourse with corpses and infants.
Farmers were forced to commit zoophiliac acts with their livestock.
Any resistance would be met with summary executions. While the rape peaked immediately following the fall of the city, it continued for the duration of the Japanese occupation.
We would certainly agree that rape is indeed a horrible action, wouldn’t we now?
It was the Balkans wars of the 1990s that exposed the issue of mass rape of women to international visibility. The term “genocide rape” began to be widely employed to convey the centrality of sexual assault to the wider campaign of group destruction. Although rejected by some who argued that rape and genocide were distinct crimes, the concept gained further credibility with the horrific events in Rwanda in 1994.
In Rwanda, there were between 250.000 and 500.000 women who were raped during the genocide. In the book “Women after the Genocide”, it is said that the rape was accompanied by extreme brutality that includes the pouring of boiling water onto the genital parts and into the vagina, the cutting off of breasts and the mutilation of other parts of the female body. And the rape is very often followed by death – sometimes (and still) years later, because of the high proportion of Hutu rapists infected with the HIV virus.
In September 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda convicted Jean-Paul Akayesu for acts of genocide including sexual violence. This marked “the first conviction for genocide by an international court; the first time an international court has punished sexual violence in a civil war; and the first time that rape was found to be an act of genocide [intended] to destroy a group.”
The guilty verdict the war crimes tribunal for Rwanda pronounced on Jean-Paul Akayesu marked the first judgment for the crime of genocide under international law. In making rape part of Mr. Akeyesu’s genocide conviction, the decision also advances the world’s legal treatment of rape and sexual violence. The greater impact of the court’s Akayesu decision will likely be seen in the area of rape and sexual violence. The court declared that rape may constitute genocide if committed with intent to destroy a particular group. In this case, Tutsi women were raped to increase their suffering before being killed. The court also issued the first definition of rape under international law. It called rape ”a physical invasion of a sexual nature, committed on a person under circumstances which are coercive.” Coercive circumstances need not include physical force, the court said. Threats and intimidation would qualify. The definition is concise and broad enough to be a good guide, enabling courts to prosecute rape more easily in the future.
When charges were first brought against Mr. Akayesu, rape was not among them. Despite extensive media reports of rapes, the tribunal’s investigators, at the time virtually all men, could not find evidence to support an indictment. But during the trial a witness brought up rape in the cultural center. Questioned by Navanethem Pillay, a South African who is the tribunal’s only female judge, the witness gave details. Other witnesses followed. Largely due to pressure from women’s groups, the investigators went back to ask about rape, and those charges were added. Without female judges and investigators, this cruel aspect of the Rwandan genocide might never have been addressed.
The judgment was unprecedented at least in 3 respects.
It was the first ever judgment by an international tribunal for the crime of genocide.
I t was also unprecedented in recognizing that rape and sexual violence constitute genocide, if committed with the specific intent of destroying, in whole or in part, a particular targeted group.
Lastly, the judgment provides the first ever definition of rape under international law.
On 17 July 1998, 120 governments adopted the Statue of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC builds on the positive precedents of the Statues of the ICTY and ICTR. It integrates sexual crimes into international law. As a result of intensive work and lobbying by women lawyer and activists, the definition of ‘crimes against humanity” and “war crimes” now includes rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity.
So, in conclusion, I believe that rape can be and should be classified as “crime against humanity”.
The perpetrators should be treated equally as a genocide mastermind.
Preserving human dignity is part of acknowledging and upholding basic human right. While rape, not only violating human right; it also demeaning the values of human being for those unfortunate victims who has to endure the agony, and for us, if we let it happened and let it happened without prosecution.