In ancient times rape was seen as a reward to the victors; for example, there are a number of references in the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures to acts of mass rape by conquerors, and plenty in Roman and Greek history.
In modern times mass rape has been increasingly used as a premeditated terror tactic by invading armies. According to ReligiousTolerance.org the Germans used rape as a tactic of terror as they marched through Belgium in World War I and gang rape was part of the orchestrated riots of Kristallnacht that marked the beginning of the Nazi campaigns against the Jews in November 1938 (incidentally, the British historian Martin Gilbert, has just published a very well reviewed book about Kristallnacht). The Russians used it as a weapon of revenge when they marched to Berlin in WWII, the Japanese raped an estimated 80,000 Chinese women in Nanking (and the total number of "comfort women" rapes between 1930-1945 is estimated at 10 million) and, sadly, it appears that rape of Vietnamese by American G.I.s was considered "standard operating procedure aimed at terrorizing the population into submission"
According to Anthony Beevor (Berlin - The Downfall 1945) the number of women raped during WWII ran into the millions, "a high proportion' of at least 15 million women who lived in the Soviet zone or were expelled from Germany's eastern provinces were raped." East German women from the World War II era used to (and probably still do) refer to the Red Army war memorial in Berlin as "the Tomb of the Unknown Rapist."
There have been numerous cases in recent religiously-motivated wars: In the early 1990s the Serbians used it as a tactic to encourage Bosnian Muslim women to flee their land (an estimated 20,000 were raped) and the Hutu leaders ordered their troops to rape Tutsi women as an integral part their genocidal campaign. Moving on to the late 1990s, Indonesian security forces allegedly raped ethnic Chinese women during a spate of major rioting and Serbian military units systematically raped ethnic Albanian Muslim women in Kosovo.
Of course, there are a number of international laws concerning rape during wartime, for example Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that "women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault."
This article was originally published in April 2006, and has been updated for the
July 2006 paperback release.
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