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Journal Article


Sitkin RA, Lee BX, Lee G. Aggress. Violent Behav. 2019; 46: 219-224.


(Copyright © 2019, Elsevier Publishing)






Throughout history, attacks on women have been common during armed conflict. Frequently military forces have viewed sexual violence as a spoil of war, a punishment to defeated populations, or as the deviance of rogue soldiers. However, conflicts in which sexual violence has been weaponized have been increasing. When a military force's command utilizes systematic and widespread sexual violence as a weapon of war against a specific group, in both intent and effect, it fulfills every condition of the Geneva Convention standards of genocide. In this article, we analyze three cases: Bosnia during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda during its genocide, and Chile under the Pinochet dictatorship. Motivations for each of the conflicts varied, from ethnic cleansing to the elimination of a competing political group, however, the constant in all three was the intended elimination of a specific group and a state sanctioned implementation of a policy of sexual violence in order to do so. Egregious acts of sexual violence were deliberately planned to murder, to incur permanent mental and physical harm, to demoralize and destroy the group's ability to procreate in the future, and to impose measures upon the group to bring about its end. Based on these examples, we argue that, irrespective of the cause of a conflict, systematic and widespread sexual violence used as a weapon of war must be classified as genocide. Our intention is not to expand the definition of genocide, but rather to more clearly specify the definition in light of advancements in the understanding of the impacts of sexual violence on societies.

Language: en


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