It must be noted that it is very rare for a conflict to escape the use of rape as a weapon of war.
War rape often aims to terrorize the population, break up families, destroy communities, and in some cases change the ethnic composition of a population. It can also be used to deliberately transmit HIV to women or make targeted women unable to bear children.
Like the organization of a terrorist attack or other armed attack, the use of sexual violence is well thought out and planned because it makes it possible to meet specific objectives such as:
- Ethnic cleansing and purification in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda or today against the Yezidi people or against the Rohingya minorities in Burma.
- Political and economic strategy in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Central African Republic. In these countries, the areas where rape is rampant are those where diamonds or precious minerals are mined with the aim of causing the population to flee, and allowing militias and armed gangs to exploit the minerals.
- A means of terror and torture in Iraq, Libya or Syria or in Southern Sudan.
- A political repression instrument in Guinea, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe or Kenya.
- Indoctrinating soldiers as in October 2015, when in a letter addressed to his men, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of the Islamic State, advocated conversion to Islam through rape. Daesh has made war rape a supreme weapon in its strategy. Boko Haram in Nigeria has also made it their favourite weapon by targeting young girls, especially those going to school, abducting them, repeatedly raping them and forcing them to marry Boko Haram members. The example of the 200 Chibok girls abducted in 2014 is the most convincing.
- Rape is also used as a recruitment guarantee by Daech and Boko Haram. Indeed, for most extreme jihadist organizations, the guarantee of sexual relations is an essential recruitment tool. More recently in Sudan, recruitment was done with the guarantee of having “women” often as young as 10 years old.
- As a new source of income with trafficking in human beings, “sex markets” and ransom demands… now constitute a new form of financial resource in the same way as oil.
If it is obvious that war rape has always existed, that it also constitutes a spoils of war as in the Sabine era or even a tool of revenge for the victor as was the case during the Second World War; what has been new for 20 years is its institutionalization.
In this sense, Boko Haram in Nigeria and in the Sahel, Daesh in Iraq and Syria have purely and simply theologized the use of rape. Manuals and guides on sexual slavery have been developed, markets for women have been set up with rates based on age, virginity, and the community from which the victim comes…
These groups have fully integrated war rape into their terrorist strategy because they have understood its value in terms of long-term impact.
War rape has therefore also become a tool and a terrorist weapon. It is now integrated into counter-terrorism strategies.