In the context of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign, the staff of LuxDev in Kosovo and the Embassy of Luxembourg visited the Heroinat Memorial, which was unveiled on 12 June 2015, Kosovo’s Liberation Day. This artwork depicts the face of an Albanian woman and was created with 20 000 pins, each representing a woman raped during the Kosovo War.
The “Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims” (KRCT), after having analysed data from 900 survivors (of which 844 were female and 135 underaged), concluded that rape was systematically used as a weapon of war during the 1998-1999 war. These crimes also happened in so-called “rape houses”, where the victims were often assaulted by more than one perpetrator.
“The power of the harasser, the abuser, the rapist depends above all on the silence of women.” - Ursula K. Le Guin
After a new legislation was adopted in 2018, Kosovo started granting the status of survivor of wartime sexual violence to victims, which not only bestows official recognition of a victim’s suffering, but also makes them eligible for benefits such as monthly payments for 230 EUR. Regrettably, many survivors have been hesitant to report their rape and apply for the grant, out of fear for being stigmatised and ostracised. Victim-blaming remains rampant in Kosovar society and prevents survivors from reporting their experiences.
During the conflict, many women were fighting for the KLA (the Kosovo Liberation Army) and many others were active in the non-violent resistance. This monument is recognising and commemorating all women who suffered and sacrificed their safety and lives. It stands as a grave warning for all armed conflicts – past, future and present – and for the hardship that women and girls have to endure in wartimes. Reports of rape as a weapon of war date back to antiquity, but it can be assumed that wartime sexual violence is an even older phenomena and has been occurring since the times when humans first waged war on each other. Female non-combatants were often included among the riches and property conquered from the opponent and the number of rapes was often used indicatively to determine the success of a campaign. Although some army codes have prohibited rape and pillaging to regulate the conduct of their armies, it was only in 1863, when the “Lieber Code” became the first codification of international customary laws that designated rape as a war crime.
Only in 1949 did the wider global community condemn and outlaw the use of rape in war time in article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. The conventions challenged the widespread acceptance of rape and sexual enslavement of women as an intrinsic part of war. Nonetheless, the first prosecution for wartime rape as a crime against humanity transpired only in 1998, when a UN tribunal, set up after the Rwandan genocide, convicted politician Jean Paul Akayesu. Since then, wartime sexual violence has been regularly deemed an instrument of terror such as the “rape camps” of the Serbian forces during the Yugoslav wars. Whilst most countries nowadays recognise deliberate sexual violence against civilians as a severe crime, it is still a pervasive occurrence in ongoing conflicts. In 2019, rape was used as a weapon of war in 15 countries.
The Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in collaboration with the Luxembourg Red Cross, is supporting the Panzi Hospital and the Panzi Foundation, established by Nobel prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwenge in 1999. The project MAE/017 supports the hospital and the foundation, which links women to other social services to complement the work of the Panzi Hospital on the socioeconomic reintegration of women. Its overall objective is to contribute to the prevention and elimination of gender-based violence, and to the care of victims and survivors of sexual violence in the province of South Kivu in the DRC. Project MAE/017 is so far the only LuxDev project that devotes itself to the fight against sexual violence against women.
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