Week 8 Day 2 Question 4

Read Bethan McKernan’s article, “Rape as a weapon: huge scale of sexual violence inflicted in Ukraine emerges,” which was published in The Guardian on Monday, April 4, 2022. As Russian troops retreat from villages around Kyiv, Ukrainian forces and aid workers have discovered evidence of war crimes perpetrated against civilians in their wake. McKernan reports,

Particularly difficult for many to comprehend is the scale of the sexual violence. As Russian troops have withdrawn from towns and suburbs around the capital in order to refocus the war effort on Ukraine’s east, women and girls have come forward to tell the police, media and human rights organisations of atrocities they have suffered at the hands of Russian soldiers. Gang-rapes, assaults taking place at gunpoint, and rapes committed in front of children are among the grim testimonies collected by investigators.

McKernon shares the experience of a young Ukrainian woman named Antonina Medvedchuk. When the Russian invasion began, Medvedchuk began “looking for emergency contraception instead of a basic first aid kit,” because she feared she might be raped. Her mother tried to reassure her that wars like that “don’t exist anymore, they are from old movies.” But Medvedchuk was unconvinced. She stated, ” I have been a feminist for eight years, and I cried in silence, because all wars are like this.”

Based on your understanding of current events in Ukraine and/or other global conflict zones, do you share Medvedchuk’s view that “all wars are like this” – i.e., rife with sexual violence? How might this week’s readings help you to think about rape as a tool of warfare?

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