The UN has finally acknowledged that rape is used as a weapon of war by voting unanimously in favour of a resolution to classify it as such. Rape has long been used as a means of terrorising and humiliating one’s enemies. It affects not just the people who are raped (most often women and girls), but also the communities to which they belong. Hurting someone is always a means of hurting their family and the wider community of which they are a member. But rape is particularly effective due at least partly to the way in which women and their sexuality are viewed. The norms governing women’s sexual behaviour are typically more stringent or more strictly enforced than those governing the sexual behaviour of heterosexual men. More significantly, deviance from these norms is often held to bring dishonour upon the entire community of which the woman is a part. This Amnesty article has more information about the use of rape as a war tactic. Here also is an article analysing the Rape of Berlin in 1945 and its connection with constructed gender identities. And here is the BBC news report on the UN resolution.
It’s also worth remembering that women in war zones are not just at risk of rape from the warring factions, but also the peacekeepers sent to protect them. Here is an old Guardian report on the issue.