(Read On! ... occasional posts on writing worth reading)In recent years, the differing and overlapping experiences of men and women in situations of armed conflict have garnered significant international attention. Such attention results from the confluence of multiple factors including greater visibility of the violations experienced by women in times of war; the increasing reliance by UN member states on gendered violations as a basis for justifying multi-national humanitarian interventions; and greater exposure of the broader social, economic and cultural effects on women of inter-state and intra-state armed conflict.
A new book, Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones: From the Ancient World to the Era of Human Rights, provides an impressive historical perspective on these issues. Written almost exclusively by historians, the 14 essays survey an outstanding array of sites, ranging from ancient Greece to medieval England, from the American Revolution and pre-colonial warfare in Tanzania to the Bangladeshi war, from ancient warfare to World War II. A final essay, by the late Rhonda Copelon, addresses how far legal approaches to sexual violence have come—and how much farther they need to go (a wonderful memorial of her and her work). The book grew out of a conference in April 2006 held at the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights titled “The History of Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones” and co-organized by Elizabeth Heineman (pictured below), the editor of this collection of essays. It is organized topically, rather than chronologically or regionally.
To read more, please see our related review forthcoming in Human Rights Quarterly, May 2012.