Rape and sexual violence are used as weapons of war because they are inexpensive and have longer lasting effects than guns or other weapons. UNICEF has noted that sexual violence “erodes the fabric of a community in a way that few weapons can.” Sexual violence and rape not only have negative, long-term impacts on women, but also their children, their families and their communities.

The effects are far reaching. Women suffer both psychologically and physically, as well as socially and economically.

When women are victims of sexual violence, they often suffer physically from persistent pain, fistula and infertility. Women can also contract HIV or other STDs, that put them at a severely disadvantaged position for the rest of their lives. In instances where women are injured so severely that they are unable to work, they suffer economically as well.

Psychological effects can emerge years later and have a long lasting impact including depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), low self esteem and suicidal thoughts.

During conflict, women are at risk for being victims of sexual violence, and in post-conflict societies, women are at risk of the social impacts resulting from being raped or experiencing sexual violence. Using rape as a weapon of war causes long lasting impact on the lives of the victims.

Due to the stigma of rape, women are often forced from their families or divorced by their husbands. This can be extremely problematic in societies where a woman’s economic security depends on marriage. When women are isolated, they are often forced into a life of poverty.

In instances where women become pregnant after being raped, they are isolated from their communities for birthing an “enemy child.” This is detrimental to a woman’s well-being in a multitude of ways, as they are cut from communities that once helped support them. The mental impact is equally severe, while it is even further enhanced by the economic impact of having to raise a child.

On the other hand, societies where a woman’s value is dependent on her ability to have children, infertility as a result of being raped or a victim of sexual violence can seriously affect a woman’s social standing and perceived worth.

Sexual violence and rape as  weapons of war damage entire families and communities whether women stay within them or are outcast. As women are isolated, communities are broken. If they stay, men are affected as they feel they have failed in their role as “protector.” The physical, mental, social and economic impacts felt by women, men and children can last decades and even multiple generations.

— Kim Tierney

Sources: Harvard, The International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict, ODI
Photo: Woodmark

News related to India in recent years has focused on a distressing part of life in the nation. That is to say, a purported prevalence of rape has come to the forefront of the nation’s international presence. Recently, for instance, a Danish tourist vacationing in New Dehli was allegedly raped by two men. The attention has brought to light what many people allege is a burgeoning ‘rape culture,’ and a society that views women’s rights as less than important.

The attention has pushed Indian politicians to address the issue more fervently, as the nation has a poor record on pro-women rights. Gender inequality is, however, firmly embedded in the foundation of the nation’s culture, which can be seen by powerful figures such as the head of India’s National Intelligence Agency stating, “If you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it.” Such a statement clearly demonstrates that an outdated mentality towards women’s rights persists in the nation, a mentality where blaming victims for rapes seems to be the main attitude toward this epidemic. For instance, Madyha Pradur, India’s Home Minister, blamed the Swiss rape victim for her attack, stating that if she had notified local authorities about where she planned to travel, the attack most likely would not have happened.

Gang-rape has historic roots in India, having been used since the creation of Modern India. It was especially used as a “weapon of oppression” against women throughout the nation. Rampant unemployment has led to men developing “personal alienation,” coupled with deeply “ingrained misogyny.” It’s argued that gang-rape has been a budding phenomenon, only growing due to a legal and court system which has been mostly indifferent to the concerns of women, or wholly incompetent in dealing with an upsurge of rape cases.

Conditions have been improving in recent years, however. In comparison to more developed nations like the United Kingdom, Indian rape convictions were much higher. Only about 7% of rapes in the United Kingdom actually led to convictions, where-as India had a conviction rate of 24.2% in 2012, a stunning rate considering it’s developing nation status which gives it less resources to deal with the issue.

Rape cases are, furthermore, being more publicized in India, as shown through the increased reporting on rape throughout the nation. The major catalyst for India was the infamous Dehli gang rape of 2012, which brought into focus, the welfare of women in the nation and how authorities handle the delicate nature of rape and assault cases. The Dehli Gang rape occurred in December of 2011 and led to major protests that rocked the nation as well as the creation new legislation that refocused anti-rape laws.

As it stands, the amount of reported rapes increased, doubling from 143 reported between January and March of 2012 to 359 following the Dehli gang rape. As tragic as the rape was, it has turned rape into newspaper fodder, with major media outlets in India reporting “each and every rape case.”

The Indian nation is hopeful for change. With rapists being held more accountable for their actions, the nation may overcome this widespread epidemic.

– Joseph Abay

Sources: IBN Live, TIME, ABC News, CNN, NDTV, Think Progress, Telegraph, The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, Spiegel Online
Photo: The Guardian