'The Rape of the Nation: Women Narrativising Genocide'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 4, no. 2, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/4/2/lentin.html>
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Received: 26/05/99 Accepted: 14/06/99 Published: 30/6/99
The Serb soldiers took pregnant women and cut their stomach open and put a knife into the baby... Girls of 16 and 18 were raped in front of their fathers and brothers. Two such girls, sisters, committed suicide after being raped (RTE, 4 May 1999).'Over 20 girls were taken from our house,' Mrs Trolli said. 'They came back half an hour later. They were crying. Some said they had been raped. With others, we knew they had' (Borger, The Guardian, 1999: 2).'A Serb soldier wouldn't be interested in raping an Albanian woman, it would be against our nature. Don't get me wrong, there were some pretty ones and even if we did want to, we didn't because the army didn't allow it.' Later his story changes (O'Kane, The Guardian, 1999: 5).
When an unranked system collapses, as in Bosnia, women's bodies become a battlefield where men communicate their rape to other men - because women's bodies had been the implicit political battlefield all along (Rejali, 1998: 30).
the Serb and Bosnian Serb military policy of genocidal rape imagined, and then constructed a specific type of masculinity, consistently aggressive, violent, powerful and dominating (Hague, 1997: 53).
A raped Croatian woman is a raped Croatia. Here was a mystic unity of woman and the country identified through her. Once again, the nation's identity is established through women's bodies. The consequence of equating the raped woman with the 'dishonoured' country is that all members of the 'enemy' army are viewed as rapists - not just those who started the war, the politicians, the generals and the exponents of systematic rape in aid of 'ethnic cleansing.' There are no individual culprits, but the whole nation, including its women, is culpable (Kesic, 1995).
One elderly woman from Mijlan said that, on the third night, the police entered the house of Avdi T., shining a flashlight in the faces of the women, many of whom were trying to cover their heads with their scarves. They found one woman and said, 'you come with us.' She returned, approximately two hours later and, when asked what happened, said, 'don't ask me anything' (B.a.B.e Women's Human Rights Group, Zagreb, 1999).
The rape of mothers, grandmothers, sisters, friends or lovers... is difficult to face. The further possibility that mothers or sisters or lovers 'voluntarily' used sex for food or protection is equally difficult to absorb... but to dismiss situations that relate so specifically to women makes it impossible to begin to understand the victimisation of women (Ringelheim, 1997: 25).
2By the end of 1992 more than 46 million people had lost their homes; about 36 million were women and girls (Hauchler and Kennedy, 1994, cited by Turpin, 1998: 4).
3See, for example, descriptions of Algeria as woman: 'Algeria-woman is Algeria which does not want to fall into the hands of the enemies so as not to be reduced to slavery and subjugation, which does not want to be possessed by others... and would rather be dead than be possessed by others' (Dejeux, 1987, cited by Cherifati-Merbatine, 1994: 51). Another example is the gendering of Britain and Ireland (see Innes, 1993).
4Azzouni Mahshi (1995:8) reports of several imprisoned Palestinian women raped with a stick, 'the implication being that they were not worthy of being touched.
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