This is a book that analyzes gender in war, rape as a war tactic, and the role of narrative in criminal justice proceedings following war. Sex and International Tribunals focuses on Rwanda and Sierra Leone to look at the messiness of legality as a whole.
One of Chiseche Salome Mibenge’s main points is that girl’s and women’s experiences in war cannot be reduced to a single story. To say that they just also get raped (on top of the enslavement and violence that boys and men can face) is not only unproductive but false. We know men face gender-based sexual violence too, and we know that there are many ways to frame or define or name sexual violence. So a powerful man politician may have their genitals mutilated after being killed, and a woman who is forced into marriage might stick around in order to be with the kids she had with the guy. It’s complicated.
I think what was most striking to me was just how purposefully manipulative sexual violence is during war time. Mibenge cites other situations like Nazi Germany and African enslavement to highlight how these trends get reproduced over and over. You start raping and impregnating and torturing women, now they will get treated differently at home, they will feel differently about their place in the world, they will be different people. It’s psychological warfare. There was one story about a young girl who is raped alongside a couple other girls, but when the guys hear her say she’s from their group they let her go and she never sees those girls again. So she’s the only one who could testify because she’s the only one that got away.
Best line: Can silence create a narrative? In my experience, yes. -Chiseche Salome Mibenge p 24
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