Genocidal rape: unum crimen sine lege. Recognising rape as an act of genocide

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Stavrou, Chrysanthi
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Genocidal rape, defined as “a physical invasion of a sexual nature, committed on a person under circumstances which are coercive with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”, has been part of various genocidal campaigns throughout history. It has had profound and irreparable effects on targeted groups, breaking their cohesion, negatively impacting their reproduction ability by attacking mainly the female population, and jeopardising the perpetuation of the group identity. Genocidal rape, in its most aggressive form, can cause death or permanent physical or mental harm to the victims. Yet the experiences of those victims do not fit within the genocide framework. They are often considered isolated incidents or mislabelled as crimes against humanity or war crimes without acknowledging the intent to destroy the group in whole or in part. This discrepancy arises, inter alia, from the absence of recognition of rape as a distinct genocidal act in international law. This thesis provides a comprehensive understanding of genocidal rape and its conceptualisation within the international legal system. It seeks to differentiate genocidal rape from other forms of genocide-related violence and advocates for its proper recognition as a separate act of genocide by expanding the definition of the latter. The research explores the reasons behind the non-recognition of the crime within the current legal framework, considering the involvement of all actors in genocidal rape cases. By addressing these issues, this study contributes to the advancement of knowledge on genocidal rape and highlights the necessity of recognising it as a distinct genocidal act. Classifying rape within the framework of genocide transcends academic pursuits; it represents a crucial initial stride in paving the way for combating and preventing this crime in the future.
Second semester University: University of Graz
rape, genocide, group identity