Date of Award


Thesis Date


Degree Type

Honors Thesis-Unrestricted

Degree Name


Degree Program

International Studies


Michael Huelshoff


Sexuality is one of the most central elements of human existence. Throughout history, attacks on women have been common during armed conflict. Frequently military forces have viewed sexual violence as a spoil of war, a punishment to defeated populations, or as the deviance of rogue soldiers. However, there are conflicts in which sexual violence is used as a weapon. In these conflicts, sexual violence evolves from a facet of conflict to genocide. When a military force’s command utilizes systematic and widespread sexual violence as a weapon of war, in both intent and effect, it fulfills every condition of the Geneva Convention standards of genocide.

Three cases are analyzed within this thesis: Chile under the Pinochet dictatorship, Rwanda during its genocide, and Bosnia during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. Motivations for each of the conflicts varied. However, the constant in all three conflicts was the intended elimination of a specific group and the implementation of a policy of sexual violence in order to do so.

In order for crimes to be considered genocide they must fulfill one of the following conditions, as stated in Article 2 of the Geneva Conventions, any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such: A. Killing members of the group; B. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; C. Deliberately inflicting on the group the conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; D. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; E. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. Egregious acts of sexual violence and torture were utilized by all three respective commands in order to murder, incur grievous mental and physical harms, destroy the group’s ability to procreate in the future and impose measures upon the group intended to bring about its end. This work demonstrates that irrespective of the cause of a conflict, when systematic and widespread sexual violence is used as a weapon of war, it is genocide.


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