Home Today How the Securitisation of Sexual Violence in Battle Fails Us

How the Securitisation of Sexual Violence in Battle Fails Us


Within the wake of the popularisation and mainstreaming of feminist advocacy, sexual violence in battle (SVC) framed as a weapon of struggle has been prevalently condemned by the media, governments, and worldwide organisations alike. Whereas the widespread consideration to the difficulty is warranted, such understanding of SVC and consequent securitisation of the matter is definitely problematic. In flip, by means of problematising the conception of struggle and fight from a post-colonial feminist perspective, this essay argues for the reframing of the duality of ‘struggle’ and ‘peace’ right into a continuum of battle and repression, to be able to reject the perpetuation of gendered and colonial information, which course of is maintained and reproduced by means of the framing of SVC as a weapon of struggle. This isn’t to negate the strategic side of SVC fully, however reasonably to understand each its strategic and non-strategic sides 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 struggle. Then, it is going to spotlight how the securitisation of SVC reproduces a gendered and colonial conception of struggle that has concrete penalties on coverage to deal with sexual violence. In flip, reframing the duality of ‘struggle’ and ‘peace’ by means of 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 Warfare II and subsequently by US troopers in Japan below 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 struggle. The defence lies in a key assumption that SVC is strategically perpetrated by rational culpable actors to attain political targets as ladies’s purity is seen to signify their collective as a nation (Baaz and Stern, 2013). Therefore, SVC punishes the enemy by means of humiliating each ladies by corrupting their ultimate conception of female chastity and males by sullying theirwomen (Enloe, 2000). On this sense, an evidence by means of ‘common patriarchal gender relations’ is deemed insufficient, because it offers inadequate explication on the strategic focusing on of ladies and ladies, particularly these of an ‘Different’ ethnic group in an ethno-national battle (Allison, 2007: 89). In a flip aspect, the patriarchy strategy additionally considerably fails to elucidate why males and boys are focused as properly. Due to this fact, it’s argued that SVC must be understood as a weapon of struggle.

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

The implication is the homogenisation, objectification, and commercialisation of SVC (Meger, 2016). The securitisation of SVC negates every little thing else aside from the strategic intent of the act. Therefore, it’s oblivious to the distinctions over the perpetrators, the victims, and the goals different for tactical good points (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 struggle. Consequently, sources are allotted for emergency responses however not for prevention of SVC (Baaz and Stern 2010; Autesserre 2012). Organisations invite safety consultants to discuss SVC (Aradau, 2004). In the meantime, these immediately impacted are solely featured within the campaigns to lift consciousness and help, however nowhere close to the decision-making desk. The difficulty justifies interventionist overseas coverage, whereas home infrastructures that may really facilitates long-term change for girls safety after combating and peacekeeping missions ends expertise pushbacks (Merger, 2016).

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

Actually, fight reinforces and reproduces hegemonic masculinity by means of institutionalisation, which strain permeates into the soldier people’ experiences. Troopers are skilled in fight to embody the microcosm of the state, not solely by means of the motion of combating itself, but additionally of their operate because the service of the state’s mission of struggle (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 to be able to purchase the id of a soldier which is aggressive, disciplined, and rational because the ‘that means of masculinity displays the requirement of struggle’ (Hutchings, 2008: 393). Along with this optimistic reinforcement, the valorisation of masculinity is moreover achieved by means of destructive differentiation, within the type of devaluation of all that’s thought-about female (Duncanson, 2009). On this sense, troopers in fight speculated to embody the head of manhood: ‘the hegemonic masculinity of the fight soldier’ (Sasson-Levy, 2003: 327). Due to this fact, the navy permits SVC not merely as a spoil of struggle, however a deliberate mechanism of implementing and reproducing such masculinity. Thus, fight isn’t solely a proving floor but additionally 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 ladies’ system primarily based on a report that many officers ‘deemed it needed… to rape ladies to be able to stimulate aggression’ which is a reasonably precious masculinised attribute of a soldier (Tanaka, 2002: 29).[1]

On the identical time, the character of hegemonic masculinity isn’t regular, contemplating how its privilege derives from such excessive unachievable requirements, which don’t signify 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 strain 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 by means of SVC (Baaz and Stern, 2009). It is usually a manner of coping to divert the frustration because the troopers are subjected to the navy 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 flexibility to oppose, as there was a strain 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 acknowledged, “They cried out, nevertheless it didn’t matter to us whether or not the ladies lived or died. We have been the emperor’s troopers. Whether or not in navy brothels or within the villages, we raped with out reluctance,” (Tabuchi, 2007). Thus, to limit the understanding of SVC as a weapon of struggle 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 ‘struggle’ and ‘peace’ by means of a postcolonial lens. The prevailing research of struggle has been largely primarily based on a Eurocentric historic expertise of main wars between sovereign nation-states that dichotomised the interval of ‘struggle’ and ‘peace’. That is evident from the up to date 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 isn’t that non-Western conflicts are ignored, however reasonably the utilisation of universalised idea to know them with out acknowledging the Eurocentrism. Due to this fact, there must be ‘decolonisation of struggle’ (Barkawi, 2016). The standard defining attribute of ‘struggle’ in distinction to ‘peace’, as within the extraordinary suspension of peculiar processes in society, not suits when non-Western experiences are examined. The evaluation may be superior by reframing the ‘struggle/peace’ duality into battle, as in armed resistance, and repression, as in using punitive risk of pressure 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 additionally contemporarily in worldwide uneven energy relations. As an illustration, the US occupation of Okinawa to this present day isn’t ‘struggle’ precisely but additionally 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 Navy Violence. However, the US isn’t stopping its occupation any time quickly, which is the case for different US abroad navy bases as properly 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 ‘struggle’. It is a vital step, because it offers an answer to the dilemma on find out how 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’ by means of using coercion throughout ‘peacetime’ society. It’s understood because the distinctive in a traditional circumstance. The difficulty arises when this schema is utilized to know SVC as a result of the distinctive conception of the context of ‘struggle’. The very presence of navy pressure, representing coercion, instantly erases the query over the ‘sexual’. The implication is that SVC appears to be a traditional a part of battle reasonably than the distinctive in an already distinctive circumstance. The revised framework of battle/repression, nevertheless, not helps this exceptionality of pressure throughout battle as it’s an ‘peculiar, 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 traditional circumstance by acknowledging the prevalence of pressure, together with that inside the beforehand hid oppressive gendered energy relations at massive. In flip, the exceptionality of SVC is attributed to using coercion at a person degree between the perpetrator and the sufferer in relevance to every case. This strategy consciously takes account varied contingencies in instances and due to this fact respect the non-public experiences of SVC, reasonably than homogenising them and solely specializing in their strategic side of warring. On the identical time, this offers a extra holistic strategy to SVC because it contains instances 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 information within the public/personal divide, and consequently its legitimisation of struggle and fight. It is because it permits to attach SVC with ladies’s experiences past the context of battle. It acknowledges ‘how struggle is (additionally) enacted inside ‘personal’ areas’ (Grey, 2018: 2) and thus recognises the connection between the ‘on a regular basis’ and ‘extraordinary’. In consequence, it’s acutely aware of the ‘continuum of violence’ (Kelly, 1988) as a testomony to the larger oppressive gendered energy relations. This understanding of SVC breaks the legitimation of struggle or another vengeful actions on the idea that ladies 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 navy conduct through the battle. After its official give up, Japanese authorities started advising the residents to evacuate metropolitan areas as there was nice concern that the ladies can be raped by the US and Allied occupational forces who have been about to land. There was a hypothesis that every neighbourhood would want to offer the service of younger ladies and that they ‘should disguise younger ladies as males, in any other case they are going to be at risk,’ (Tanaka, 2002: 112-113). The Japanese authorities try and ‘shield’ the ladies was to determine a model of ‘consolation ladies’ system for the US forces, even so far as taking 30 million yen to facilitate the sexual providers amenities with the technique of sacrificing these ladies who turned the buffer to be able to shield the ‘good’ Japanese ladies’s chastity (Dower, 1999). Their efforts to guard ladies paradoxically uncovered ladies 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 might by no means do such a factor. On the identical time, this behaviour is ‘recognized’, due to the conception of the oriental as enshrined within the colonial library (Stated, 1978). In understanding US navy id through the years, 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 Warfare 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 additionally 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 significantly evident when the US prosecuted Japan for its ‘consolation ladies’ system through the Tokyo Tribunal, however dedicated sexual violence from having the very system of ‘consolation ladies’. The victor’s justice, exemplary through the Tokyo Tribunal, prosecuted Japan for its system of ‘consolation ladies’ (Dower, 1999). One of the attention-grabbing features of the tribunal, nevertheless, was that the Dutch represented Indonesia and fully ignored the Indonesian ladies compelled involvement as ‘consolation ladies’ to suggest that rights have 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 Navy Violence reported that the US troops kidnapped and raped native ladies 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 ladies who had gone to the US camps to obtain meals hand-outs. Many incidences have been unreported because the Okinawan police fully collapsed through the battle. Additional sexual violence was dedicated by means of Japanese commissioned ‘consolation ladies’ system particularly for the Allied forces. An organisation referred to as Tokushu Ian Shisetsu Kyōkai (the Particular Consolation Amenities 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 ladies’ (Tanaka, 2002: 142). The sexual violence dedicated by US servicemen in Okinawa continues in quite a few instances of rapes whose perpetrators are sometimes shielded by the navy, as reported by the Okinawan Ladies Act In opposition to Navy Violence. As not too long ago as in 2016, an area Japanese girl was raped and murdered by a former US Marine who labored on the US navy base at Kadena Airbase (Soble, 2016). It’s price emphasising that this isn’t in any respect to negate or downplay the accountability of Japanese navy 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 struggle/fight helps to type a greater understanding of SVC by means of using a brand new framework of battle/repression as oppose to ‘struggle/peace’ to reject the replica of gendered and colonial information. This strategy manages to keep away from the theoretical slippage by means of the weapon of struggle framework that concurrently exceptionalise and normalise SVC. The framework rejects the perpetuation of the prevalence of the general public over the personal. 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 struggle and fight’s replica of hegemonic masculinity by means of exposing males’s risk to conduct violence on ladies 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 difficulty of SVC throughout nationwide boundaries may be addressed by means of the solidarity of ladies to reveal the prevalent oppressive gendered relations, which acknowledges gendered-based violence past experiences of simply ladies. The purpose is to make these situations of violence seen not solely to make sure the accountability of perpetrators, but additionally justify and name for ample 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 ladies’ is used to stress the Japanese institutionalisation of sexual violence. It’s not to downplay or deny any Japanese accountability on sexual violence on this type of sexual slavery.

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

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