Challenging Bosnian Women’s Identity as Rape Victims: The Fetishization of Sexual Violence in Post-Conflict Discourse

by Rebecca Jacobi

Faculty mentor: Dr. Surupa Gupta

How does one call attention to the gender dimensions of war violence or postwar inequalities without reproducing images of passive female victimhood and support for patriarchal notions of the protection of women? In the case of the Bosnian War, because of the large scale of sexual violence and the attention focused on this violence, Bosnian women have been stereotyped and relegated to the role of rape victim. Although women suffered from grave violations of human rights, this stereotypical portrayal is not adequate, and neglects the active role played in the perpetration of violence by some women. It also neglects women’s roles as activists, peace builders, sole supporters of their family, or political elites in a war effort. This project seeks to identify how existing scholarly literature and American newspaper media articles about the Bosnian War has contributed to the victimization of women. Most of the literature on women and warfare, or women and gender, analyzes the role of women from a victim-centred perspective. Although research shows that the majority of perpetrators are men, women too have been involved in the perpetration of war crimes. Hence, this project utilizes scholarly material, court cases, interviews with Bosnian women, and representations from the media to make the case that the securitization of sexual violence has unintentionally resulted in its fetishization and enhanced the invisibility of women in post-conflict discussions.

Challenging Bosnian Women’s Identity as Rape Victims