Within the wake of the popularisation and mainstreaming of feminist advocacy, sexual violence in battle (SVC) framed as a weapon of warfare has been prevalently condemned by the media, governments, and worldwide organisations alike. Whereas the widespread consideration to the problem is warranted, such understanding of SVC and consequent securitisation of the matter is definitely problematic. In flip, via problematising the conception of warfare and fight from a post-colonial feminist perspective, this essay argues for the reframing of the duality of ‘warfare’ and ‘peace’ right into a continuum of battle and repression, with a purpose to reject the perpetuation of gendered and colonial data, which course of is maintained and reproduced via the framing of SVC as a weapon of warfare. This isn’t to negate the strategic side of SVC utterly, however slightly to understand each its strategic and non-strategic aspects of the violence by acknowledging the bigger oppressive gendered and colonised energy relations.

This essay will begin by presenting current feminist scholarship in help of the framing of SVC as a weapon of warfare. Then, it’s going to spotlight how the securitisation of SVC reproduces a gendered and colonial conception of warfare that has concrete penalties on coverage to handle sexual violence. In flip, reframing the duality of ‘warfare’ and ‘peace’ via a postcolonial lens permits a extra nuanced understanding of SVC as part of persevering with oppression each within the West and elsewhere. This essay will use the case research of the sexual violence dedicated by Japan throughout World Struggle II and subsequently by US troopers in Japan underneath their occupation.

Securitisation of SVC and its Flaw

To start with, there are feminist scholarships that help the understanding of SVC as a weapon of warfare. The defence lies in a key assumption that SVC is strategically perpetrated by rational culpable actors to attain political targets as girls’s purity is seen to characterize their collective as a nation (Baaz and Stern, 2013). Therefore, SVC punishes the enemy via humiliating each girls by corrupting their very best conception of female chastity and males by sullying theirwomen (Enloe, 2000). On this sense, a proof via ‘common patriarchal gender relations’ is deemed insufficient, because it offers inadequate explication on the strategic concentrating on of ladies and ladies, particularly these of an ‘Different’ ethnic group in an ethno-national battle (Allison, 2007: 89). In a flip facet, the patriarchy strategy additionally considerably fails to elucidate why males and boys are focused as effectively. Due to this fact, it’s argued that SVC must be understood as a weapon of warfare.

Nonetheless, the implication of such framework will not be solely too restrictive but in addition reproduces a gendered data of warfare and safety extra broadly. Firstly, such understanding SVC as a weapon of warfare situates sexual violence in a public sphere, as a collective risk to the nation past the non-public issues of the victims (Hirschauer, 2014). In doing so, the framework reinforces the general public/non-public divide in addition to affirming the hierarchical significance of public issues, whereas rendering the non-public as inferior: sexual violence is seen as essential solely as soon as it’s set to be ‘rhetorically [attached] to safety aims of warfare’ (Hirschauer, 2014: 187). The implication is that the popularity of the gravity of SVC relies on it occurring within the public area, the place strategic preventing takes place between two collectives, as conventionally portrayed within the conventional theorisation of warfare (Buss, 2007; Shepherd, 2005). It’s then logically inferred that by some means the non-public experiences of sexual violence outdoors the context of warfare is much less essential. Therefore, the weapon of warfare framework alleviates and divorces sexual violence from the persevering with uneven gendered energy relations, whatever the formal context of warfare.

The implication is the homogenisation, objectification, and commercialisation of SVC (Meger, 2016). The securitisation of SVC negates the whole lot else aside from the strategic intent of the act. Therefore, it’s oblivious to the distinctions over the perpetrators, the victims, and the aims different for tactical positive aspects (Meger, 2011). This decontextualisation, carried out to render SVC solely as a risk of worldwide safety, hides and ignores the underlying political, social, and financial relations that drive gendered violence throughout and past the context of warfare. Consequently, assets are allotted for emergency responses however not for prevention of SVC (Baaz and Stern 2010; Autesserre 2012). Organisations invite safety consultants to talk about SVC (Aradau, 2004). In the meantime, these straight impacted are solely featured within the campaigns to lift consciousness and help, however nowhere close to the decision-making desk. The problem justifies interventionist overseas coverage, whereas home infrastructures that may really facilitates long-term change for girls safety after preventing and peacekeeping missions ends expertise pushbacks (Merger, 2016).

Secondly, the weapon of warfare strategy reproduces hetero-sexist and essentialised conception of ladies of their biologically reproductive capacity, which is prolonged to symbolise the copy of the nation. The inherent vulnerability removes girls’s company to guard themselves or certainly participate within the warfare battle, not to mention as combatants. This one-dimensional view of ladies invitations the safety of males whereas overlooking how these supposed saviours aren’t proof against offend themselves.

In actual fact, fight reinforces and reproduces hegemonic masculinity via institutionalisation, which stress permeates into the soldier people’ experiences. Troopers are skilled in fight to embody the microcosm of the state, not solely via the motion of preventing itself, but in addition of their perform because the service of the state’s mission of warfare (Hale, 2012). Therefore, fight is a legitimating floor for violence, in order that particular person personnel are deliberately skilled to take away their very own self with a purpose to purchase the id of a soldier which is aggressive, disciplined, and rational because the ‘which means of masculinity displays the requirement of warfare’ (Hutchings, 2008: 393). Along with this optimistic reinforcement, the valorisation of masculinity is moreover achieved via destructive differentiation, within the type of devaluation of all that’s thought-about female (Duncanson, 2009). On this sense, troopers in fight purported to embody the head of manhood: ‘the hegemonic masculinity of the fight soldier’ (Sasson-Levy, 2003: 327). Due to this fact, the army permits SVC not merely as a spoil of warfare, however a deliberate mechanism of implementing and reproducing such masculinity. Thus, fight will not be solely a proving floor but in addition a system in developing, emphasising, and reproducing hegemonic masculinity (Millar and Tidy, 2017). The Japanese Imperial Military consciously made the shift from treating rape as a secondary offence earlier than 1942 to the creation of the ‘consolation girls’ system primarily based on a report that many officers ‘deemed it needed… to rape girls with a purpose to stimulate aggression’ which is a slightly useful masculinised attribute of a soldier (Tanaka, 2002: 29).[1]

On the similar time, the character of hegemonic masculinity will not be regular, contemplating how its privilege derives from such excessive unachievable requirements, which don’t characterize most experiences of males. Whitehead (2002: 93) places it properly that ‘the idea of hegemonic masculinity can ‘see’ solely construction, making the topic invisible,’ Thus, the stress and the assured failure of particular person troopers to dwell as much as the legendary heroic soldier provokes the necessity for concealment by regaining their masculinity via SVC (Baaz and Stern, 2009). Additionally it is a manner of coping to divert the frustration because the troopers are subjected to the army hierarchic chain of command which is an integral a part of reinforcing traits of hegemonic masculinity. Japanese troopers accounted their hunger and fixed abuse by their superiors with out the power to oppose, as there was a stress for preserving unity at their private sacrifice (Dower, 1999). Conversely, after they do succeed corresponding to profitable in fight, there can be a way of entitlement for an ‘award’ which takes type in SVC. Yasuji Kaneko, a former Japanese soldier said, “They cried out, nevertheless it didn’t matter to us whether or not the ladies lived or died. We had been the emperor’s troopers. Whether or not in army brothels or within the villages, we raped with out reluctance,” (Tabuchi, 2007). Thus, to limit the understanding of SVC as a weapon of warfare can really be counter-productive to its objective in ending SVC within the first place.

New Framework: Continuum of Battle/Repression

Alternatively, a extra nuanced and helpful feminist understanding of SVC may be achieved by reframing the duality of ‘warfare’ and ‘peace’ via a postcolonial lens. The present research of warfare has been largely primarily based on a Eurocentric historic expertise of main wars between sovereign nation-states that dichotomised the interval of ‘warfare’ and ‘peace’. That is evident from the modern research of worldwide politics which situate worldwide relations within the present timeframe of ‘peace’ of the post-1945 period, in distinction to the extraordinary ‘wartime’, deriving from the expertise of the 2 World Wars. The issue with this strategy will not be that non-Western conflicts are ignored, however slightly the utilisation of universalised idea to know them with out acknowledging the Eurocentrism. Due to this fact, there must be ‘decolonisation of warfare’ (Barkawi, 2016). The standard defining attribute of ‘warfare’ in distinction to ‘peace’, as within the extraordinary suspension of extraordinary processes in society, now not matches when non-Western experiences are examined. The evaluation may be superior by reframing the ‘warfare/peace’ duality into battle, as in armed resistance, and repression, as in using punitive risk of power in suppressing such resistance (Barkawi, 2016). That is proved to be helpful, because it does make sense not just for the Western empire traditionally, but in addition contemporarily in worldwide uneven energy relations. For example, the US occupation of Okinawa to today will not be ‘warfare’ precisely but in addition not ‘peace’. It displays US energy on Japan which is met with resistance from the locals corresponding to from the Okinawan Ladies Act In opposition to Army Violence. However, the US will not be stopping its occupation any time quickly, which is the case for different US abroad army bases as effectively such because the notorious Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba. 

The utilisation of this revised framework of battle/repression returns the ‘sexual’ to the evaluation of SVC so {that a} feminist securitisation of sexual violence may be extra holistic and delicate to contingencies with out being restricted being the context of ‘warfare’. This can be a vital step, because it offers an answer to the dilemma on the way to perceive SVC with out normalising it as part of warring. Baaz and Stern (2018) clarify how the ‘sexual’ defines the character of sexual relations in ‘peacetime’ society. Thus, rape may be judged as perverse due to the negation of the ‘sexual’ via the usage of coercion throughout ‘peacetime’ society. It’s understood because the distinctive in a standard circumstance. The problem arises when this schema is utilized to know SVC as a result of the distinctive conception of the context of ‘warfare’. The very presence of army power, representing coercion, instantly erases the query over the ‘sexual’. The implication is that SVC appears to be a standard a part of battle slightly than the distinctive in an already distinctive circumstance. The revised framework of battle/repression, nevertheless, now not helps this exceptionality of power throughout battle as it’s an ‘extraordinary, not extraordinary, dimension of politics’ (Barkawi, 2016: 201). Thus, this framework returns the ‘sexual’ as a figuring out class of SVC regardless of the context of battle. Consequently, SVC may be seen because the distinctive in a standard circumstance by acknowledging the prevalence of power, together with that inside the beforehand hid oppressive gendered energy relations at massive. In flip, the exceptionality of SVC is attributed to the usage of coercion at a person stage between the perpetrator and the sufferer in relevance to every case. This strategy consciously takes account numerous contingencies in circumstances and subsequently respect the non-public experiences of SVC, slightly than homogenising them and solely specializing in their strategic side of warring. On the similar time, this offers a extra holistic strategy to SVC because it consists of circumstances of sexual violence regardless of the shortage of any strategic side of warring. This strategy permits for a extra nuanced understanding of SVC by respecting each its strategic and non-strategic side.

In doing so, this strategy manages to reject the gendered data within the public/non-public divide, and consequently its legitimisation of warfare and fight. It’s because it permits to attach SVC with girls’s experiences past the context of battle. It acknowledges ‘how warfare is (additionally) enacted inside ‘non-public’ areas’ (Grey, 2018: 2) and thus recognises the connection between the ‘on a regular basis’ and ‘extraordinary’. Consequently, it’s acutely aware of the ‘continuum of violence’ (Kelly, 1988) as a testomony to the higher oppressive gendered energy relations. This understanding of SVC breaks the legitimation of warfare or every other vengeful actions on the idea that girls with their symbolic reproductive function of the nation want males’s safety. In distinction, this strategy exposes how these very males pose probably the most quick risk of sexual violence within the context of not-war, and their violent conducts are solely additional heightened surrounding the time of battle.

This is applicable appropriately to criticise the hypocrisy of Japanese narrative after its defeat in distinction to its personal army conduct through the battle. After its official give up, Japanese authorities started advising the residents to evacuate metropolitan areas as there was nice worry that the ladies can be raped by the US and Allied occupational forces who had been about to land. There was a hypothesis that every neighbourhood would wish to supply the service of younger girls and that they ‘should disguise younger girls as males, in any other case they are going to be in peril,’ (Tanaka, 2002: 112-113). The Japanese authorities try to ‘defend’ the ladies was to ascertain a model of ‘consolation girls’ system for the US forces, even so far as taking 30 million yen to facilitate the sexual companies amenities with the technique of sacrificing these girls who grew to become the buffer with a purpose to defend the ‘good’ Japanese girls’s chastity (Dower, 1999). Their efforts to guard girls paradoxically uncovered girls to sexual violence.

Moreover, the framework of battle/repression permits a extra thorough evaluation of SVC past the colonial rhetoric as the results of and to justify hierarchical worldwide relationships. That is contemporarily seen, as Baaz and Stern (2013) discover the dominant tales about SVC are reproductive of the colonial picture of the ‘Third World’ to point its barbaric violence. This conduct is ‘unknowable/unintelligible’ because the occident condescendingly declare that they’d by no means do such a factor. On the similar time, this behaviour is ‘recognized’, due to the conception of the oriental as enshrined within the colonial library (Stated, 1978). In understanding US army id over time, it has assumed a ‘masculinist orientalism’, following its self-proclaimed supremacy over the enemy-Others and the necessity to rescue civilian-Others (Brunner, 2013). In the meantime, the Japanese troopers through the Asia-Pacific Struggle was notorious for being the irrational ‘obedient herds’ following their emperor with a ‘infantile brutality’ (Dower, 1999).

The framework is useful as a result of it exposes sexual violence, not solely throughout battle but in addition in repression, which is the context the place such worldwide uneven relationships are often most seen. This evaluation reveals the hypocrisy of the West by divulging its personal culpability, having dedicated the very violence of SVC that they condemned. That is notably evident when the US prosecuted Japan for its ‘consolation girls’ system through the Tokyo Tribunal, however dedicated sexual violence from having the very system of ‘consolation girls’. The victor’s justice, exemplary through the Tokyo Tribunal, prosecuted Japan for its system of ‘consolation girls’ (Dower, 1999). One of the vital attention-grabbing elements of the tribunal, nevertheless, was that the Dutch represented Indonesia and utterly ignored the Indonesian girls pressured involvement as ‘consolation girls’ to suggest that rights had been reserved for Westerner or its arbitrary allies solely (Tanaka, 2002).

In the meantime, a survey carried out by the Okinawan Ladies Act In opposition to Army Violence reported that the US troops kidnapped and raped native girls together with nurses and girls sufferers who had been admitted into the US Subject Hospital shortly after their touchdown on Zamami Island (Tanaka, 2002). This behaviour continued as Tanaka (2002) compiles testimonies recalling American troopers taking younger ladies from civilian homes at gunpoint and even the raping girls who had gone to the US camps to obtain meals hand-outs. Many incidences had been unreported because the Okinawan police utterly collapsed through the battle. Additional sexual violence was dedicated via Japanese commissioned ‘consolation girls’ system particularly for the Allied forces. An organisation referred to as Tokushu Ian Shisetsu Kyōkai (the Particular Consolation Services Affiliation) was established particularly for this activity, which was quickly renamed as Recreation and Amusement Affiliation to keep away from the disparaged time period ‘consolation girls’ (Tanaka, 2002: 142). The sexual violence dedicated by US servicemen in Okinawa continues in quite a few circumstances of rapes whose perpetrators are sometimes shielded by the army, as reported by the Okinawan Ladies Act In opposition to Army Violence. As lately as in 2016, an area Japanese girl was raped and murdered by a former US Marine who labored on the US army base at Kadena Airbase (Soble, 2016). It’s value emphasising that this isn’t in any respect to negate or downplay the duty of Japanese army for its personal perpetuation of SVC. The aim is to reveal the culpability of perpetrators of SVC no matter their energy to outline the narrative and thus protect their crime.


In conclusion, a postcolonial feminist evaluation of warfare/fight helps to type a greater understanding of SVC via using a brand new framework of battle/repression as oppose to ‘warfare/peace’ to reject the copy of gendered and colonial data. This strategy manages to keep away from the theoretical slippage via the weapon of warfare framework that concurrently exceptionalise and normalise SVC. The framework rejects the perpetuation of the prevalence of the general public over the non-public. In distinction, permits securitisation of SVC in a extra holistic and delicate manner by avoiding simplification or homogenisation of contingent experiences. It additionally breaks the legitimisation of warfare and fight’s copy of hegemonic masculinity via exposing males’s risk to conduct violence on girls as oppose to guard them. Lastly, the framework interrupt colonial rhetoric produced by dominant occidental energy in knowledge-creation by uncovering the culpability of the West in committing SVC as a lot as its non-Western counterpart. By opposing the colonial rhetoric, the problem of SVC throughout nationwide boundaries may be addressed via the solidarity of ladies to reveal the prevalent oppressive gendered relations, which acknowledges gendered-based violence past experiences of simply girls. The goal is to make these cases of violence seen not solely to make sure the accountability of perpetrators, but in addition justify and name for satisfactory coverage response to systematically alter uneven gendered energy relations, culminating in sexual violence, within the first place.


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[1] The time period ‘consolation girls’ is used to stress the Japanese institutionalisation of sexual violence. It isn’t to downplay or deny any Japanese duty on sexual violence on this type of sexual slavery.

Written at: London Faculty of Economics
Written for: Dr. Katharine Millar
Date written: December 2018

Additional Studying on E-Worldwide Relations


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