My speciality throughout my university career always shocks people, as I specialised in the history of Sexual Violence. Primarily towards women. But when looking at the devastation of sexual violence during the holocaust, it’s apt to look at men too.
This month sees decisive action being taken by the United Nations to eliminate violence towards women, beginning with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence towards Women on the 25th November. Over the following 16 days, discussions about the ways in which we can make this possible take place.
Violence takes many forms. It’s vital to look at the whole picture and in this case, the sexual violence bestowed upon women all over the world is under the microscope. The Rwandan genocide is, in my opinion, the biggest instance of this.
During the genocide, which was the first instance in which rape was considered a systematic tool of genocide, it is estimated that 250,000 women were raped. This number is placed purely due to the number of babies born as a result. It doesn’t take into consideration those who illegally aborted, didn’t conceive, or who were killed.
In Rwanda, children were forced to rape their mothers, and sisters. Women were made to rape other women. HIV was purposely spread to kill out the Tutsi race. It only lasted three months, but killed more than the Bosnian war had in 5 years. The scariest part is, the Rwandan genocide was not a secret. It was not hidden behind closed doors. The world knew what was happening, surrounding countries and major powers knew what was going on and no-one stepped in to stop it. At least threee million people died due to this.
These atrocities serves as a lesson and the UN’s decision to take 16 days a year to raise awareness of violence towards women, in all forms, is vital.
According to the UN’s website, 70% of women will face violence in their lifetimes. This is a scarily high figure, and although not all will face the intense sexual violence that those in Rwanda, or Hitler’s Germany or Bosnia have, it isn’t what we want for our mothers, sisters, daughters. It cannot be tolerated.