Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sexual Violence and Intra-State Conflict

While the topic of rape in warfare has gained increased attention since the discovery of rape camps in Bosnia in the early 1990's, I think this might be the first instance where violence against women actually draws more opposition at home and abroad than murder. The military of Guinea suppressed a protest, and, in the course of events, cameras caught much sexual violence, outraging the public.
Rape is a fairly common tool of military repression in Africa, but large-scale violence against women has not been a previous government tactic here. “This time, a new stage has been reached,” said Sidya TourĂ©, a former prime minister who was also beaten at the stadium and said he had witnessed brutalities there. “Women as battlefield targets. We could never have imagined that.”
Always, things can go in two ways--less repression and more. It is not clear where it will go in Guinea (admittedly far, far away from my expertise). The problem is that the ordinary way in which an authoritarian leader is removed is via a military coup. But the military is implicated by these events, so they are unlikely to side with the opposition. So, my best guess is more repression, as there is really very little the international community can do unless it wants to intervene quite directly. And given that few countries have any spare military units on the shelf, I do not expect the outside world to offer more than words and gestures.

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