Gender and Genocide


Human engage in conflicts which are usually resolved by dialogue or otherwise escalate to unprecedented war levels. Prolonged wars and conflicts have negative effects on the people involved directly or indirectly (Bock, 2008). The mass killings and persecution of vulnerable persons constitutes to genocide. The 1948 Geneva convention after the second world war described genocide as mass killing of persons during conflict on the basis of some defied criteria be it gender, race or political affiliation (Bock, 2008).

This article aims at discussing the relation between genocide and gender. The Geneva Convention describes gender and genocide as being gendercide. Punitive measures taken by military forces and warlords to eliminate their adversary on gender basis. The measures outlined in the convention as constituting gendercide include rape, castration, compulsory abortion, obstacle to marriage, segregation of the sexes and sterilization.

All instances of genocide witnessed in the world are gendered. They have different effects on women and men. They enact socially constructed meanings of differences in biology after the end of the genocide. They also contribute to the constitution of relations based on gender after the end of the genocide. The genocides witnessed in Rwanda and Bosnia served to shift the question of genocide and gender beyond the Holocaust (Bock, 2008). The paper aims at illustrating the relation between gender and genocide. It focuses on how feminine and masculine roles shape men and women as bystanders, perpetrators and victims of genocide.

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During wartimes, both parties actively engage in maneuvers to weaken their enemy, exhaust their artillery before beating them into submission. Some of the processes and methods employed have been classified as being gender based. The enemy often seeks to breach the best line of defense of their adversary, the active men (Caringella, 2009). Forces need care, food and medication that is provided by the women. Children play a crucial role of child soldiers as they are easily manipulated and brain washed into carrying the agendas of their seniors to advance their course. Children also serve as messengers to deliver information to the various parties as they can elude barriers and reinforcements playing innocent.


Men are often the primary targets in the events of genocide cases. They are considered the greatest threat to their enemies as they have the physical capacity to fight and take risks for the seek of their people. An example is the 1988 Anfal campaign that was against the Kurdish males. The males between 25 and 50 were considered battle aged in the Iraqi Kurdish (Carpenter, 2006). Most of them were brutally murdered before their families. The murders were selective as the enemy forces kept their wives, daughters and children as sex slaves , maids and nurses.

Kurdish male were captured, tortured during the processing process at concentrated camps. Another incidence was the Srebrenica massacre of over 8,000 Bosnian boys and men in the year 1995. The heinous act was rules as a genocide act based on gender by the international court of justice. Serbian forces gathered men and boys from all refugee camps in the county of Potocari (Caringella, 2009). They were held in separate locations where they could be easily controlled and managed. They were then gunned down in cold blood and unarmed to the last man. The act began a shift of power during the conflict as Serbia took control and subdued the Bosnians.

Men are also subject of castration as an act that is gender based during genocide. Pauline Nyaramasuhuko, a Rwandan strong woman was charged at the International Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on allegations of encouraging and organizing the castration of Hutu men during the Rwanda genocide. She was charged and convicted of genocide based on gender. The presiding judge while passing sentence described her actions as targeting as specific faction of the Hutu people.

The mental and bodily harm of the actions she abated was also illustrated by the judge and the prosecutor. Her case illustrated in an unprecedented fashion, the point of female perpetrators against men during genocide. Rwanda as 70 percent of its population being women and 50 percent of all households being led by women (Caringella, 2009). This can be attributed to men losing their live during the genocide. Young ladies do not have suitors to marry them.


Feminists’ study of genocide in the 1970s and 1980s has centered genocide on gender basis as having roots of males against female. The agenda has its sources from emerging genocide studies that suggest that women are the most vulnerable in cases of conflict and war. They argue that men take the centre stage in staring and fuelling conflict (Carpenter, 2006). They are the ones that are actively engaged in war, yet women are the ones that are greatly affected. Women often lose their bread winner during wars. They are left to cater for their children while their husbands are away fighting or dead in the battlefield. They are the subject or rape by perpetrators of genocide acts.

During the Holocaust in German and Turkey, the women Jews were placed in the same concentrated camps as their male counterparts. They were however made to watch as the males were gassed. This was to have an emotional effect on them so that they would not resist. In Rwanda, Tutsi men sexually molested Hutu women. They forcefully made them sexual slaves and nurses in their quarters.

Women were however spared the front line in times of war and their deaths were limited as compared to the men. Deaths of women can be attributed to suicide due to trauma of losing their loved ones, fatigue due to being overworked and wounds sustained during self defense. Women tend to survive longer in times of genocide but suffer the most. During the Armenia genocide, beautiful young women were sold off as sex slaves and the rest assimilated to provide labor in households. Kurds and Ottomans attacked deportation routes, killed all men bit spared women as they could be of use in the future (Carpenter, 2006).


Genocide has more often than not taken a gender dimension. Nature has made one sex weaker that the other. The males seem to look out for their women and have a duty to protect them. This makes them the primary target during war. They are therefore ready to pay the ultimate price for the sake of their families and community at large. Gender has been intersected with other factors during genocide. The factors include social and economic factors.

Women hail from different range of classes, racial background and cultural inclinations. In Darfur, black women were targeted by Somali warlords as they were seen as being inferior (Carpenter, 2006). They were raped while their assailants shouted racial slurs. Their Arab counterparts were merely beaten and left for death. Hutu men were also fueled by erotic fantasies about Tutsi women. Gender stands out as the major factor in the event of genocide. Segregation is on basis of the sexes as they are not handled in similar fashion except for a few instances.


Bock, Gisela 2008 ordinary women in Nazi Germany. Ch. 5 (pp. 85-100) in Dalia Ofe and Lenore J. Weitzman, eds. 2008 Women in the Holocuast. New Haven: Yale UniversityPress.

Caringella, Susan 2009 Adressingg Rape Reform in the Law and Practice. New York: Columbia University Press.

Carpenter, R.C. 2002 Beyond ‘gendercide’: Incorporating gender into comparative genocide studies. International Journal of Human Rights 6/4: 77-101.

Copelon, Rhoda 2005 Gerndered War Crimes: Reconceptualizing rap in time of war. Pp. 197- 214 in Women’s Rights, Human Rights, ed. J. Peters and A. Wolper. New York: Routledge.

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