According to Article 2 of the CPPCG (Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide), genocide is killing of group of people with an intention to destroy that group may it be ethnic, racial or a religious group. Also included in the UN definition is the imposing of measures intended to prevent pregnancy and birth in women as these are able to carry the traits endemic to that group. Several incidents of genocide had occurred since the end of the World War I.
The first genocide to happen in the 20th century was the death of an estimated 1. 5 million Armenians living in Turkey which started on 1915 and ended on 1918. When the Young Turks seized power, many extremists wanted to expand their territory in which at least 2 million Armenian Christians were living. As a result, the massive population was eliminated through terrorism acts and massacres. Another unforgettable genocide is the Nazi Holocaust which killed nearly 6,000,000 people, mostly Jews.
Like the Armenian genocide, the Nazi Holocaust was driven by religious extremists, most notably Adolf Hitler who wanted to eliminate Jews in all of Europe. In most cases of genocides, women are directly taken into victimization and sexual violence. For example, during the 1992-1995 genocide in the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina where an estimated 200,000 deaths were recorded, Muslim families fled from their villages in fear of Serbs who terrorize them by raping their women and girls.
Perhaps the best example for genocides directly linked into female’s role is the Rape in Nanking which happened during the Second World War (from 1937-1938). After defeating and indiscriminately killing the men and boys in the province of Nanking, Japanese soldiers turned their attention to Chinese women. They took no mercy on women—old women or even little girls. Gang-rape was common as reflected by the 20,000 estimated victims, whom were then stabbed with bayonets or shot with machine guns after being feasted.
Even pregnant women did not escape the hell as they too were raped and had their bellies cut open and the fetuses revealed. In other times, they raid families and forced the daughters to be raped by their fathers or the sons to rape their mothers or brothers rape their sisters while other members of the family were held to watch the event take place. Women as Victims and Perpetrators The main reason why women are the usual targets during massacres lies in the common notion that women are powerless and thus cannot fight back to their oppressors.
While this idea continues to circulate around different societies and entities, other dimensions on the conflicting role models will remain unexplored and the gender-based stereotype will continue to point out women as victims, especially during genocide. The Rwandan genocide was a big leap from this notion. Aside from being the victims, Rwandan women also showed aggressive behavior manifested in their sexual perpetrations at the height of the genocide. In this regard, the genocide that occurred in Rwanda requires rethinking of the common notion that women are powerless.
Rwandan women simply did not fit to the concurrent social mold as they participated not just as victims but also as perpetrators spreading sexual violence. Women as Victims In order to provide a clear picture of the women as victims and perpetrators, one should have a knowledge or background on the role that women played in some societies and events. It shall be understood that women, with her reproductive capability, are important to the survival of a certain ethnic identity or social or political group. Because of this reason, women are usually hunted, raped, abused, and brutally killed during genocides.
These acts were seen in the Rwandan genocide. Women played a very important role as the carrier of the Tutsi’s “ethnic identity” and as a result, the oppressor, the Hutu tribe, abused and killed Tutsi women. Aside of abuse, they also spread out sexually transmitted diseases, more specifically, AIDS which is now continually killing Tutsi children and families even if the conflict was already over. Rwandan women, particularly the Tutsis, were victims of sexual violence intended to kill not only the existing population but also the hope for their future.