Casualties of Rape in Kosovo

In the early 1990s, mass rapes were reported in Bosnia. Thousands of women were repeatedly raped and tortured at the hands of the Serbs. There are several reported rumors that the Serbs, during the war in Kosovo, may have used rape as a tactic of war. As human rights organizations begin to collect information and evidence of whether or not systematic rape was used as a weapon of war, the greatest problem they confront is the social consequences for rape victims.

So far, there has been no confirmation that systematic rape was used, but there have been several reports that suggest the use of rape camps by the Serbs. Refugees recount instances of sexual assault and isolated rape incidences, and the State Department has received information that the Hotel Karagac in Pec and an army camp nearby Djakovica were turned into rape camps.

The use of rape during war by the Serbs has several functions. By raping women, Serbs are taking possession of their enemy’s women, while simultaneously proving their manhood. Also, they desire to create a “pure” Serbian race, discounting the nationality and background of the woman.

In a society that deems the purity and virginity of women as paramount to the honor of the family, raped women face severe humiliation, shame, and guilt. Many women deny that they have been raped and experience great emotional and psychological problems. The social stigma of rape is such that a woman and her family become social outcasts. A woman risks being abandoned by her husband or family, or even being exiled from her village if she reports or discusses the trauma of her rape.

Currently, there is no hard evidence that rape camps existed in Kosovo. However, officials have little doubt that as time progresses and more refugees return to their homeland, more stories of rape will emerge.


New York Times - June 22, 1999

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