Women & War

We cannot condone the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

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Devastating Consequences

Denis Mukwege, an extraordinary doctor who runs a clinic for victims of DRC's violence, explains how rape functions in the strategic interest of the conflict's various armed groups:

"Once they have raped these women in such a public way, sometimes maiming them, destroying their sexual organs--and with everybody watching--the women themselves are destroyed… They are traumatized and humiliated on every level, physical and psychological. That's the first consequence.

The second consequence is that the whole family and the entire neighborhood is traumatized by what they have seen. The ordinary sense of family and community is lost. … Many flee. Families are dislocated. Social relationships are lost. … Not only the victims have been destroyed; the whole village is destroyed."

With reality as brutal as this, we have well passed the threshold where our parashah's humane aspirations for the captive "woman of beautiful form" can be left to languish in the implications of the text. Rape is a hideous crime for which neither war--nor our law--must extend cover. If the Torah cannot here voice the unequivocal condemnation of sexual violence during war, then it is up to us--now--to do so in its name.

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Rachel Farbiarz

Rachel Farbiarz is a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law. Rachel worked as a clerk for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, after which she practiced law focusing on the civil rights and humane treatment of prisoners.