Genocidal rape

Genocidal rape is the action of a group who has carried out acts of mass rape during wartime against their enemy as part of a genocidal campaign.[1] During the Bangladesh Liberation War,[2][3][4][5] the Yugoslav Wars, the Rwandan genocide,[3][6] the Iraqi Civil War, the second Sino-Japanese war, and the Rohingya genocide; the mass rapes that had been an integral part of those conflicts brought the concept of genocidal rape to international prominence.[7] Although war rape has been a recurrent feature in conflicts throughout history, it has usually been looked upon as a by-product of conflict, and not an integral part of military policy.[8]

The violence against women during the Partition of India has also been cited as an example of genocidal rape.[9]

Genocide debateEdit

Some scholars argue that the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide should state that mass rape is a genocidal crime.[10] Other scholars argue that genocidal rape is already included in the definition under article two[Note 1] of the convention.[7][11] Catherine MacKinnon argues that the victims of genocidal rape are used as a substitute for the entire ethnic group, that rape is used as a tool, with the target being the destruction of the entire ethnic group.[12]

Siobhan Fisher has argued that forced impregnation and not the rape itself constitutes genocide. She says, "Repeated rape alone is still ‘just’ rape, but rape with the intent to impregnate is something more."[2][13] Lisa Sharlach argues that this definition is too narrow because these mass rapes should not be defined as genocide based solely on those raped having been forcibly impregnated.[2]

Rape as genocideEdit

According to Amnesty International, the use of rape during times of war is not a by-product of conflicts, but is a pre-planned and deliberate military strategy.[14] In the last quarter of a century, the majority of conflicts have shifted from wars between nation states to communal and intrastate civil wars. During these conflicts the use of rape as a weapon against the civilian population by state and non-state actors has become more frequent. Journalists and human rights organizations have documented campaigns of genocidal rape during conflicts in Former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Liberia, Sudan, Uganda, and during the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[15]

The strategic aims of these mass rapes are twofold. The first is to instill terror in the civilian population, with the intent to forcibly dislocate them from their property. The second is to degrade the chance of possible return and reconstitution by having inflicted humiliation and shame on the targeted population and to decrease social cohesion of a targeted group. These effects are strategically important for non-state actors, as it is necessary for them to remove the targeted population from the land. Rape as genocide is well suited for campaigns which involve ethnic cleansing and genocide, as the objective is to destroy, or forcefully remove the target population, and ensure they do not return.[15]

One objective of genocidal rape is forced pregnancy, so that the aggressing actor not only invades the targeted population's land, but their bloodlines and families as well. However, those unable to bear children are also subject to sexual assault. Victims’ ages can range from children to women in their eighties.[16][17]

Documented instancesEdit

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) it is estimated that in 2011 alone there were 400,000 rapes.[18] In the DRC, genocidal rape is focused on the destruction of family and communities. An interview with a survivor gave an account of gang rape, forced cannibalism of a fetus taken from an eviscerated woman, and child murder.[19]

During the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, members of the Pakistani military and supporting Bihari and Razaker militias raped between 200,000 [20] and 400,000[21] Bangladeshi women in a systematic campaign of genocidal rape. Some women may have been raped as many as eighty times in a night.[22]

In the ongoing War in Darfur the Janjaweed militias have carried out actions described as genocidal rape, with not just women, but children also being raped, as well as babies being bludgeoned to death and the sexual mutilation of victims being commonplace.[23]

During the Second Sino-Japanese War the Imperial Japanese Army during the Battle of Nanking carried out what has come to be known as the Rape of Nanking, which has been described by Adam Jones as "one of the most savage instances of genocidal rape". The violence saw tens of thousands of women gang raped and killed.[24] The International Military Tribunal for the Far East estimated that 20,000 women were raped, including infants and the elderly.[25]

A large portion of these rapes were systematized in a process where soldiers would search door-to-door for young girls, with many women taken captive and gang raped.[26] The women were often killed immediately after being raped, often through explicit mutilation[27] or by stabbing a bayonet, long stick of bamboo, or other objects into the vagina. Young children were not exempt from these atrocities, and were cut open to allow Japanese soldiers to rape them.[28]

On 19 December 1937, the Reverend James M. McCallum wrote in his diary:

I know not where to end. Never I have heard or read such brutality. Rape! Rape! Rape! We estimate at least 1,000 cases a night, and many by day. In case of resistance or anything that seems like disapproval, there is a bayonet stab or a bullet ... People are hysterical ... Women are being carried off every morning, afternoon and evening. The whole Japanese army seems to be free to go and come as it pleases, and to do whatever it pleases.[29]

The estimates of the numbers of German women raped by Soviet soldiers in 1945 have ranged up to 2 million.[30] According to historian William Hitchcock, in many cases women were the victims of repeated rapes, some as many as 60 to 70 times.[31] At least 100,000 women are believed to have been raped in Berlin, based on surging abortion rates in the following months and contemporary hospital reports,[32] with an estimated 10,000 women dying in the aftermath.[33] Female deaths in connection with the rapes in Germany, overall, are estimated at 240,000.[34][35]

Antony Beevor describes it as the "greatest phenomenon of mass rape in history", and has concluded that at least 1.4 million women were raped in East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia alone.[36] Natalya Gesse, who was a Soviet war correspondent at the time, said that the Soviets didn't care about the ages of their victims. “The Russian soldiers were raping every German female from eight to eighty. It was an army of rapists,” she said. Walter Zapotoczny wrote that even female Russian soldiers did not disapprove of the rapes, some finding it amusing.[37]

Walter S. Zapotoczny Jr. wrote: "There was a sense among Russian soldiers that "Motherland" had been violated by the invasion of German army. This sense was promoted by the government. The governments calls for revenge had given the idea that almost any cruelty would be allowed. Russian government would not permit any discussion of the rape of German woman. Many veterans, even today, are reluctant to talk about it."[38]

During the Rwandan genocide the violence took a gender specific form, with women and girls being targeted in a systematic campaign of sexual assault. It is estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 were victims of rape.[39][18] Those who survived the genocidal rape found themselves stigmatised, and many also discovered that they were infected with HIV. This has resulted in these women being denied their rights to property and inheritance as well as their employment chances being restricted.[40] The first woman charged and convicted for genocidal rape was Pauline Nyiramasuhuko.[41]

In 1996 Beverly Allen wrote Rape Warfare: The Hidden Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia in which the term genocidal rape was first introduced, she used the term to describe the actions of the Serbian armed forces who had a policy of rape with the intention of genocide.[42] In her book she compares genocidal rape to biological warfare.[43] During the conflict in Bosnia Allen gave a definition of genocidal rape as "a military policy of rape for the purpose of genocide currently practiced in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia by the Yugoslav army the Bosnian Serb forces and the irregular Serb forces known as Chetniks"[44]

Coverage of the mass rapes during the ethnic cleansing carried out by the Serbian forces in the 1990s began the analysis over the use of rape as a part of genocide. Catherine MacKinnon argues that the mass rapes during the conflict "were a simultaneous expression of misogyny and genocide", and argues that rape can be used as a form of extermination.[Note 2][2][45]


  1. ^ "...any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 2"
  2. ^ "It is also rape unto death, rape as massacre, rape to kill and to make the victims wish they were dead. It is rape as an instrument of forced exile, rape to make you leave your home and never want to go back. It is rape to be seen and heard and watched and told to others: rape as spectacle. It is rape to drive a wedge through a community, to shatter a society, to destroy a people. It is rape as genocide"


  1. ^ Totten & Bartrop 2007, pp. 159–160.
  2. ^ a b c d Sharlach 2000, pp. 92–93.
  3. ^ a b Sajjad 2012, p. 225.
  4. ^ Ghadbian 2002, p. 111.
  5. ^ Mookherjee 2012, p. 68.
  6. ^ Sharlach 2000, p. 90.
  7. ^ a b Miller 2009, p. 53.
  8. ^ Fisher 1996, pp. 91–133.
  9. ^ R. Brass, Paul (2003). "The partition of India and retributive genocide in the Punjab, 1946–47: means, methods, and purposes". Journal of Genocide Research. 5: 71–101. doi:10.1080/14623520305657.
  10. ^ Sharlach 2000, pp. 89–102.
  11. ^ Totten & Bartrop 2007, p. 159.
  12. ^ MacKinnon 2006, pp. 209–233.
  13. ^ Bisaz 2012, pp. 90–91.
  14. ^ Smith-Spark 2012.
  15. ^ a b Leaning, Bartels & Mowafi 2009, p. 174.
  16. ^ "Genocide Watch- Ten Stages of Genocide".
  17. ^ Smith 2013, p. 94.
  18. ^ a b Poloni-Staudinger & Ortbals 2012, p. 21.
  19. ^ Joeden-Forgey 2010, p. 74.
  20. ^ Saikia 2011b, p. 157.
  21. ^ Riedel 2011, p. 10.
  22. ^ Brownmiller 1975, p. 83.
  23. ^ Rothe 2009, p. 53.
  24. ^ Jones 2006, p. 329.
  25. ^ Paragraph 2, p. 1012, Judgment International Military Tribunal for the Far East.
  26. ^ "Japanese Imperialism and the Massacre in Nanjing: Chapter X: Widespread Incidents of Rape". Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  27. ^ "A Debt of Blood: An Eyewitness Account of the Barbarous Acts of the Japanese Invaders in Nanjing," 7 February 1938, Dagong Daily, Wuhan edition
  28. ^ Gao Xingzu; Wu Shimin; Hu Yungong; Cha Ruizhen. Japanese Imperialism and the Massacre in Nanjing. Chapter X: Widespread Incidents of Rape. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  29. ^ Hua-ling Hu, American Goddess at the Rape of Nanking: The Courage of Minnie Vautrin, 2000, p.97
  30. ^ Heineman, Elizabeth (1996). "The Hour of the Woman: Memories of Germany's "Crisis Years" and West German National Identity". American Historical Review. 101 (2): 354–395. JSTOR 2170395
  31. ^ Hitchcock, William I. (2004). The Struggle for Europe: The Turbulent History of a Divided Continent, 1945 to the Present. Anchor Books. ISBN 978-0-385-49799-2
  32. ^ "BBC - History - World Wars: The Battle for Berlin in World War Two". Retrieved 10 December 2014
  33. ^ Atina Grossmann. A Question of Silence: The Rape of German Women by Occupation Soldiers October, Vol. 72, Berlin 1945: War and Rape "Liberators Take Liberties" (Spring, 1995), pp. 42–63 MIT Press
  34. ^ Seidler/Zayas: Kriegsverbrechen in Europa und im Nahen Osten im 20. Jahrhundert, Mittler, Hamburg Berlin Bonn 2002
  35. ^ Helke Sander/Barbara Johr: BeFreier und Befreite, Fischer, Frankfurt 2005
  36. ^ Sheehan, Paul (17 May 2003). "An orgy of denial in Hitler's bunker". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  37. ^ Beyond Duty: The Reason Some Soldiers Commit Atrocities, Walter S. Zapotoczny Jr., Fonthill Media, Jun 29, 2017 - History
  38. ^ Beyond Duty: The Reason Some Soldiers Commit Atrocities, Walter S. Zapotoczny Jr., Fonthill Media, Jun 29, 2017 - History
  39. ^ Eftekhari 2004, p. 7.
  40. ^ De Brouwer 2010, p. 19.
  41. ^ Fielding 2012, p. 25.
  42. ^ Card 2008, pp. 176–189.
  43. ^ Allen 1996, p. 131.
  44. ^ Vetlesen 2005, pp. 196–200.
  45. ^ Russell-Brown 2003, p. 1.


  • Allen, Beverly (1996). Rape Warfare: The Hidden Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-0816628186.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Bisaz, Corsin (2012). The Concept of Group Rights in International Law: Groups as Contested Right-Holders, Subjects and Legal Persons. Martinus Nijhoff. ISBN 978-9004228702.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Brownmiller, Susan (1975). Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-449-90820-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Card, Claudia (2008). "The Paradox of Genocidal Rape Aimed at Enforced Pregnancy". The Southern Journal of Philosophy. S1 (46): 176–189. doi:10.1111/j.2041-6962.2008.tb00162.x.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • De Brouwer, Anne-Marie (2010). "Introduction". In Anne-Marie De Brouwer, Sandra Ka Hon Chu (ed.). The Men Who Killed Me: Rwandan Survivors of Sexual Violence. Douglas & McIntyre. ISBN 978-1553653103.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Eftekhari, Shiva (2004). Rwanda, Struggling to Survive: Barriers to Justice for Rape Victims in Rwanda. Human Rights Watch.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Fielding, Leila (2012). Female Génocidaires: What was the Nature and Motivations for Hutu Female. GRIN Verlag. ISBN 978-3656324409.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Fisher, Siobhán K. (1996). "Occupation of the Womb: Forced Impregnation as Genocide". Duke Law Journal. 46 (1): 91–133. doi:10.2307/1372967. JSTOR 1372967.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Joeden-Forgey, Elisa Von (2010). "Gender and Genocide". In Donald Bloxham, A. Dirk Moses (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199232116.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Jones, Adam (2006). Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415353847.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Leaning, Jennifer; Bartels, Susan; Mowafi, Hani (2009). "Sexual Violence during War and Forced Migration". In Susan Forbes Martin, John Tirman (ed.). Women, Migration, and Conflict: Breaking a Deadly Cycle. Springer. pp. 173–199. ISBN 978-9048128242.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Miller, Sarah Clark (2009). "Atrocity, Harm, and resistance". In Andrea Veltman, Kathryn Norlock (ed.). Evil, Political Violence, and Forgiveness: Essays in Honor of Claudia Card. Lexington. pp. 53–76. ISBN 978-0739136508.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • MacKinnon, Catherine A. (2006). "Genocide Rape Is Different Than War Rape". Center on Law & Globalization.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Poloni-Staudinger, Lori; Ortbals, Candice D. (2012). "Rape as a Weapon of War and Genocide". Terrorism and Violent Conflict: Women's Agency, Leadership, and Responses. Springer. ISBN 978-1461456407.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Rothe, Dawn (2009). State Criminality: The Crime of All Crimes. Lexington. ISBN 978-0739126721.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Russell-Brown, Sherrie L. (2003). "Rape as an Act of Genocide". Berkeley Journal of International Law. 21 (2).CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Sajjad, Tazreena (2012). "The Post-Genocidal Period and its Impact on Women". In Samuel Totten (ed.). Plight and Fate of Women During and Following Genocide (Reprint ed.). Transaction. pp. 219–248. ISBN 978-1412847599.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Sharlach, Lisa (2000). "Rape as Genocide: Bangladesh, the Former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda". New Political Science. 1 (22): 89–102. doi:10.1080/713687893.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Smith, Roger W. (2013). "Genocide and the Politics of Rape". In Joyce Apsel, Ernesto Verdeja (ed.). Genocide Matters: Ongoing Issues and Emerging Perspectives. Routledge. pp. 82–105. ISBN 978-0415814966.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Smith-Spark, Laura (8 December 2004). "How did rape become a weapon of war?". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  • Totten, Samuel; Bartrop, Paul R. (2007). Dictionary of Genocide. Greenwood. ISBN 978-0313329678.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Vetlesen, Arne Johan (2005). Evil and Human Agency: Understanding Collective Evildoing. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521673570.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)