Feminist Legal Studies

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 145–163

Rethinking ‘Rape as a Weapon of War’


DOI: 10.1007/s10691-009-9118-5

Cite this article as:
Buss, D.E. Fem Leg Stud (2009) 17: 145. doi:10.1007/s10691-009-9118-5


One of the most significant shifts in current thinking on war and gender is the recognition that rape in wartime is not a simple by-product of war, but often a planned and targeted policy. For many feminists ‘rape as a weapon of war’ provides a way to articulate the systematic, pervasive, and orchestrated nature of wartime sexual violence that marks it as integral rather than incidental to war. This recognition of rape as a weapon of war has taken on legal significance at the Rwandan and Yugoslav Tribunals where rape has been prosecuted as a crime against humanity and genocide. In this paper, I examine how the Rwanda Tribunal’s record of judgments conceives of rape enacted as an instrument of the genocide. I consider in particular how the Tribunal’s conception of ‘rape as a weapon of war’ shapes what can be known about sexual violence and gender in the Rwandan genocide and what cannot, the categories of victims legally recognised and those that are not, and the questions pursued, and those foreclosed, about the patterns of violence before and during the genocide.


GenocideInternational lawInternational Criminal Tribunal for RwandaRapeSexual violenceWar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law DepartmentCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada