Angelina Jolie Hails New Bosnia Anti-Rape Military Training, And It's About Time The United States Listened
Looks like Bosnia has set the new global standard in comprehensive military training with its inclusion of sexual violence prevention. The anti-rape training as part of military exercises, lauded by British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie, has been called a "groundbreaking" move, and should become the standard for U.N. peacekeeping missions.
Bosnia is no stranger to sex-assault controversy, but has continued to make strides in a positive direction. During the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, it's estimated that up to 50,000 women were raped. However, in an incredible show of strength, these survivors later sued at a U.N. war crimes tribunal, which led to the imprisonment of wartime rapists for the first time in history.
Now, with the newly implemented sexual violence prevention training, it seems, as Angelina Jolie says, that Bosnia is helping to "redefine soldiering in the 21st century."
The weaponization of rape has become perhaps the most despicable and truly repugnant methods of terrorizing a population. A form of ethnic cleansing, The Telegraph reports that rape seems to be increasingly used as a "part of an attempt to destroy a way of life, erase support for rebel groups and maybe even wipe out the tribes."
A report by Amnesty International has mapped a disturbing trend that seems to suggest that women's bodies have become, in and of themselves, a warzone — an area to be conquered. The raping and pillaging of villages is not a thing of the past, but has rather reemerged as "an orchestrated combat tool," Gita Sahgal of Amnesty International told the BBC News,
If one group wants to control another they often do it by impregnating women of the other community because they see it as a way of destroying the opposing community.
Rape, in short, becomes not only a matter of personal control, but a matter of strategic ethnic control. No soldier has a right to a woman's body.
The victimization of women's bodies is a crime that too often goes unaccounted and unrecognized. The casualties of war are counted in lives lost on the battlefield, but very rarely in the lives destroyed away from smoke and gunfire. Though there is undeniable loss in combat, there is also loss in the private sphere. The Bosnian training mandate begins to ameliorate these issues.
Within the United States, it is no secret that the issue of rape is painfully present. While we may not live in a warzone, that does not translate to safety from the same abhorrent crimes, and the issue of sexual assault in our armed forces must be addressed. The blocking of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-NY) bill earlier this month, which would have "removed the chain of command from prosecuting sexual assaults and other major military crimes," proves that there is still a distinct lack of consensus regarding how best to deal with a painful subject.
And although the Senate unanimously passed Senator Claire McCaskill's (D-MO) bill, which would eliminate the statute of limitations on assault and rape cases, as well as the "good soldier defense," the bill's fate is still unclear as it heads into more turbulent waters in the House of Representatives.
It's high time that the United States demonstrates a firm commitment to protecting the men and women who protect their fellow citizens — by making it unequivocally clear that sexual violence amongst and by military members (or civilians, for that matter) is unacceptable. Bosnia's training program has sent a clear message to the rest of the world that sexual violence cannot and will not be tolerated. It is high time that the United States sends the same message.