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The Student News Site of Pinole Valley High School

Spartan Ink

The Student News Site of Pinole Valley High School

Spartan Ink


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The word Genocide and the Weight it carries

Wire Service

The word “genocide” was invented by Raphael Lemkin (1900–1959), a Polish-Jewish lawyer who wanted to describe the atrocities of the Nazis during the Holocaust. He had witnessed their atrocities firsthand when he had 40 members of his family killed; he did what I’m sure many others wanted to. He was the first person to create not only a human rights treaty but also make genocide a crime under international law. The word was derived from the words cide, the Latin word for killing, and genos, the Greek word for race.

In 1946, which was 76 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly recognized genocide as an international crime, and ever since then, 55 million people have died in more than 89 major genocides around the world.

In the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide written by Raphael Lemkin, the word genocide is used when the following acts are done with the intent to destroy a specific national, ethnic, racial, or religious group:

  1. killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring the children of the group to another group

Now remember, you may see images and videos depicting graphic and horrific things done to people, but they are not just videos and images. They are just like me and you; they have aspirations and dreams; they have parents, children, and family. They are important and do not deserve to go through the pain and suffering that is inflicted upon them; they deserve to have a childhood filled with safety and happiness, not fear and destruction. They feel real pain and cry real tears, and if that doesn’t move you, then I don’t know what will. Do not let yourself be desensitized!

Unlike genocide, mass sexual violence was recognized as a crime against humanity much earlier. The United Nations Security Council Resolution in 1820 (2008) states “sexual violence as a weapon and tactic of war;…that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.”

Genocidal rape, aka rape warfare, on the other hand, used to be seen as a coincidental issue, or, as some would say, that women were the spoils of war, which couldn’t be further from the truth. It has been recognized as a tactic of war and has been used to inflict genocide, usually ethnic cleansing, on people, mostly women.

This tactic, or ‘practice’ as others call it, is sometimes used not with direct instruction, in an excerpt from Rape as a Practice of War: In Toward a Typology of Political Violence, written by Elisabeth Jean Wood, she says, “When rape is a practice, commanders do not order, authorize, or otherwise promote it—but neither do they effectively prohibit it.” In other words, commanders of the military may not promote or authorize violence, but they also don’t prohibit it. If you do something bad and no one tells you to stop, then what do you think will happen? Of course, they would keep committing the crimes; there was no one to stop them.

In a last quote from an excerpt from Wartime Sexual Violence Misconceptions, Implications, and Ways Forward written by Dara Kay Cohen, Amelia Hoover Green, and Elisabeth Jean Wood. “Rape is not an unavoidable collateral damage of war. Its victims—women and men of all ages—were not brought down by crossfire or an errant missile; they were intentionally violated. As Neil Mitchell emphasizes, ‘Rape is not done by mistake.’”

As we all know, rape in itself causes irreversible trauma for the victim and causes post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric disorders, among a plethora of other things. It is a horrific and terrifying thing to go through. Now imagine this being inflicted on a population.

Both genocide and wartime rape go hand in hand in the destabilizing, crippling, and killing of a population. They are very obviously wrong and completely unjustified, but unfortunately, many people think that there are justifying reasons for genocides to happen. Many people feed on lies; some do not want to be involved because they only care for themselves and their comfort, and many are so sick that they simply don’t care. So I urge you, even if you have the slightest bit of interest, to take time out of your day to educate yourself and even others, because it does make a difference.

It is gravely unfortunate that we live in a world where the oppressed are the ones who are forced to educate the privileged about their suffering.

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