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10.14: Violence Against Women (Part 2)

Human Trafficking and Forced Prostitution

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Figure \(\PageIndex{6}\) - A world map showing countries by prevalence of female trafficking Main articles: Human trafficking and Forced prostitution

Human trafficking refers to the acquisition of persons by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them.[137] The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children states that:[138]

“Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”.

Because of the illegal nature of trafficking, reliable data on its extent is very limited.[139] The WHO states that: “Current evidence strongly suggests that those who are trafficked into the sex industry and as domestic servants are more likely to be women and children.”[139] A 2006 study in Europe on trafficked women found that the women were subjected to serious forms of abuse, such as physical or sexual violence, which affected their physical and mental health.[139]

Forced prostitution is prostitution which takes place as a result of coercion by a third party. In forced prostitution, the party/parties who force the victim to be subjected to unwanted sexual acts exercise control over the victim.[140]

Mistreatment of Widows

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Figure \(\PageIndex{7}\) - Description of the Balinese rite of Suttee, in Houtman’s 1597 Verhael vande Reyse … Naer Oost Indien

A widow is a woman whose spouse has died. In some parts of the world, widows are subjected to serious forms of abuse, often fueled by traditional practices such as widow inheritance.[141] The sacrifice of widows (such as sati) has been prevalent historically in various cultures (especially in India). Although sati in India is today an almost defunct practice, isolated incidents have occurred in recent years, such as the 1987 sati of Roop Kanwar, as well as several incidents in rural areas in 2002,[142] and 2006.[143]

Accused of Witchcraft

Witch trials in the early modern period (between the 15th and 18th centuries) were common in Europe and in the European colonies in North America. Today, there remain regions of the world (such as parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, rural North India, and Papua New Guinea) where belief in witchcraft is held by many people, and women accused of being witches are subjected to serious violence.[144][145][146] In addition, there are also countries which have criminal legislation against the practice of witchcraft. In Saudi Arabia, witchcraft remains a crime punishable by death.[147]

State Violence
War Rape and Sexual Slavery During Military Conflict 

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Figure \(\PageIndex{8}\) - Brennus and His Share of the Spoils, by Paul Jamin, 1893.

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Figure \(\PageIndex{9}\) - Rangoon, Burma. August 8, 1945. A young ethnic Chinese woman who was in one of the Imperial Japanese Army’s “comfort battalions” is interviewed by an Allied officer.

Militarism produces special environments that allow for increased violence against women. War rapes have accompanied warfare in virtually every known historical era.[148] Rape in the course of war is mentioned multiple times in the Bible: “For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped…” Zechariah 14:2 “Their little children will be dashed to death before their eyes. Their homes will be sacked, and their wives will be raped.”Isaiah 13:16

War rapes are rapes committed by soldiers, other combatants or civilians during armed conflict or war, or during military occupation, distinguished from sexual assaults and rape committed amongst troops in military service. It also covers the situation where women are forced into prostitution or sexual slavery by an occupying power. During World War II the Japanese military established brothels filled with “comfort women”, girls and women who were forced into sexual slavery for soldiers, exploiting women for the purpose of creating access and entitlement for men.[149] [150][151]

Another example of violence against women incited by militarism during war took place in the Kovno Ghetto. Jewish male prisoners had access to (and used) Jewish women forced into camp brothels by the Nazis, who also used them.[152]

Rape was committed during the Bangladesh Liberation War by members of the Pakistani military and the militias that supported them. Over a period of nine months, hundreds of thousands of women were raped. Susan Brownmiller, in her report on the atrocities, said that girls from the age of eight to grandmothers of seventy-five suffered attacks. (See also: Rape during the Bangladesh Liberation War)

Rape used as a weapon of war was practiced during the Bosnian War where rape was used as a highly systematized instrument of war by Serb armed forces predominantly targeting women and girls of the Bosniak ethnic group for physical and moral destruction. Estimates of the number of women raped during the war range from 50,000 to 60,000; as of 2010 only 12 cases have been prosecuted.[153] (See also Rape during the Bosnian War).

The 1998 International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda recognized rape as a war crime. Presiding judge Navanethem Pillay said in a statement after the verdict: “From time immemorial, rape has been regarded as spoils of war. Now it will be considered a war crime. We want to send out a strong message that rape is no longer a trophy of war.”[154] (See also: Rwandan Genocide)

In 2006, five U.S. troops from a six-man unit gang raped and killed a 14-year-old girl in a village near the town of Al-Mahmudiyah, Iraq. After the rape the girl was shot in her head and the lower part of her body, from her stomach down to her feet, was set on fire.[155][156] (See also: Mahmudiyah killings)

A 1995 study of female war veterans found that 90 percent had been sexually harassed. A 2003 survey found that 30 percent of female vets said they were raped in the military and a 2004 study of veterans who were seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving.[157]

According to one report, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s capture of Iraqi cities in June 2014 was accompanied by an upsurge in crimes against women, including kidnap and rape.[158][159][160] The Guardianreported that ISIL’s extremist agenda extended to women’s bodies and that women living under their control were being captured and raped.[161]Fighters are told that they are free to have sex and rape non-Muslim captive women.[162] Yazidi girls in Iraq allegedly raped by ISIL fighters committed suicide by jumping to their death from Mount Sinjar, as described in a witness statement.[163] Haleh Esfandiari from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has highlighted the abuse of local women by ISIL militants after they have captured an area. “They usually take the older women to a makeshift slave market and try to sell them. The younger girls … are raped or married off to fighters”, she said, adding, “It’s based on temporary marriages, and once these fighters have had sex with these young girls, they just pass them on to other fighters.”[164] Speaking of Yazidi women captured by ISIS, Nazand Begikhani said “[t]hese women have been treated like cattle… They have been subjected to physical and sexual violence, including systematic rape and sex slavery. They’ve been exposed in markets in Mosul and in Raqqa, Syria, carrying price tags.”[165] In December 2014 the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights announced that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant had killed over 150 women and girls in Fallujah who refused to participate in sexual jihad.[166][167]

Forced Sterilization and Forced Abortion

Forced sterilization and forced abortion are forms of gender-based violence.[168] These procedures are reported to be practiced in countries such as Uzbekistan and China.[169][170][171][172][173][174]

Violence by the Police and Other Authority Figures

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Figure \(\PageIndex{10}\) - A member of the Taliban’s religious police beating an Afghan woman in Kabul on August 26, 2001.

When police officers misuse their power as agents of the state to physically and sexually harass and assault victims, the survivors, including women, feel much less able to report the violence.[175] It is standard procedure for police to force entry into the victim’s home even after the victim’s numerous requests for them to go away.[176] Government agencies often disregard the victim’s right to freedom of association with their perpetrator.[177]Shelter workers are often reduced themselves to contributing to violence against women by exploiting their vulnerability in exchange for a paying job.[178]

Human rights violations perpetrated by police and military personnel in many countries are correlated with decreased access to public health services and increased practices of risky behavior among members of vulnerable groups, such as women and female sex workers.[179] These practices are especially widespread in settings with a weak rule of law and low levels of police and military management and professionalism. Police abuse in this context has been linked to a wide range of risky behaviors and health outcomes, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse.[179][180][181][182][183][184][185] Extortion of sexual services and police sexual abuse have been linked to a decrease in condom use and an elevated risk of STI and HIV infections among vulnerable groups.[179][186]

Stoning and Flogging

Stoning, or lapidation, refers to a form of capital punishment whereby an organized group throws stones at an individual until the person dies. Stoning is a punishment that is included in the laws of several countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, and some states in Nigeria, as punishment for adultery.[187]Flogging or flagellation is the act of methodically beating or whipping the human body. It is a judicial punishment in various countries for specific crimes, including sex outside marriage. These punishments employed for sexual relations outside marriage, apart from constituting a form of violence in themselves, can also deter victims of sexual violence from reporting the crime, because the victims may themselves be punished (if they cannot prove their case, if they are deemed to have been in the company of an unrelated male, or if they were unmarried and not virgins at the time of the rape).[188][189]

Female Genital Mutiliation (FGM)

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Figure \(\PageIndex{11}\) - Prevalence of female genital mutilation for women aged 15–49 using UNICEF “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A global concern”, 2016

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Figure \(\PageIndex{12}\) - Types of FGM

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”[190] According to a 2013 UNICEF report, 125 million women and girls in Africa and the Middle East have experienced FGM.[191] The WHO states that: “The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women” and “Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth increased risk of newborn deaths” and “FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women”.[190]According to a UNICEF report, the top rates for FGM are in Somalia (with 98 percent of women affected), Guinea (96 percent), Djibouti (93 percent), Egypt (91 percent), Eritrea (89 percent), Mali (89 percent), Sierra Leone (88 percent), Sudan (88 percent), Gambia (76 percent), Burkina Faso (76 percent), Ethiopia (74 percent), Mauritania (69 percent), Liberia (66 percent), and Guinea-Bissau (50 percent).[191]

According to some local practitioners, it is believed that FGM is linked to cultural rites and customs. It is considered to be a traditional practice which continues to take place in different communities/countries of Africa and Middle East, including in places where it is banned by national legislation. FGM is defined as a “harmful traditional practice”[192] in accordance to the Inter-African Committee. Due to globalization and immigration, FGM is spreading beyond the borders of Africa and Middle East, to countries such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, New Zealand, US, and UK.[193]