During World War II, Moroccan troops fighting in Italy had a license to ‘rape and plunder in enemy territory’. In 1974, Turkish forces participating in the occupation of Cyprus were known for raping women and girls, and when 25 of the victims reported their attacks to Turkish soldiers, they were raped once again by them. During the Boxer Rebellion thousands of Chinese women were raped by Western Forces, the French Commander ignored the allegations, attributing them to the ‘gallantry of the French soldiers’. Rape and abuse towards women, children, and men has been used as a form of psychological warfare since the beginning of history, and now, in the 21st century, this terrible problem has just increased.
Cases of abuse and sexual slavery caused by soldiers can be found all over the world. Despite being used a type of weapon to ‘humiliate’ the enemy, most of the cases don’t follow this pattern. Some examples include Haiti, where hundreds of women have been raped by UN peacekeepers, soldiers who are there to restore peace in their country. As well as in Congo, where women are being raped by Congolese soldiers one of which told The Guardian his actions were not motivated by hate or anger but simply because they could do whatever they wanted. In the end, there is always a gender-based motivation.
These type of attacks are not only perpetuated towards civilians. Female soldiers in Iraq are more likely to be attacked by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. In fact, if a soldier decides to come forward, there is a 92% chance the case won’t make it to court martial.
But what exactly is causing this tradition of impunity? Every case has a different reason of why the victims are not granted justice, but the main one is that rape cases during a war, like all rape cases, are ignored and silenced. We know about them, but we are doing nothing to stop the abusers. In the case of female soldiers the chain of command discourages the victims to come forward. If they decide to do it, they face an investigation that reviews their sexual history and some cases have even ended with involuntary discharge. Not of the rapist, but of the victim.
Last year South Sudanese soldiers raped dozens of Nuer women just outside a United Nations camp. On July 17, 2016, two soldiers dragged away a woman who was outside the camp while around 30 armed peacekeepers saw it happened. In a nearby incident a woman told The Associated Press “One soldier came and he turned the gun to us. He said, ‘If I kill you now, you Nuer woman, do you think there is anything that can happen to me?’”
In Afghanistan children are being raped by the military in a phenomenon where Afghan men take children and turn them into sex slaves, they call it ‘bacha bazi’, which translates into boy-play. Several of the attacks have taken place on U.S military bases. American soldiers have been told to stay quiet and not intervene since according to the government the help of these rapists is needed to fight the Taliban. Not only are they letting these men rape children, but they are also arming them.
In summer of 2011, Captain Dan Quinn was taken out of Afghanistan for trying to do something about the attacks happening on the base. He told The New York Times how one of the militia commanders raped a 14-year-old girl. His punishment was one day of jail and then the girl was forced to marry her rapist.
“We’re being praised for doing the right thing, and a guy just got away with raping a 14-year-old girl.”
All around the world abusers get away with the crimes they commit. We are told there is a justice system that helps the victims, but that is a lie. The government or organizations involved only comment when they are asked by the media, they promise a change, they promise to help the victims, but the moment the interview is over they forget about it. If cases of sexual assault against women, men and children are dismissed in our everyday life, the number only grows during war. This is a crime that needs to stop. These men aren’t soldiers, they are rapists and it’s time we start realizing that.