The ‘Sum of Such Actions’: Investigating Mass Rape in Bosnia-Herzegovina through a Case Study of Foca

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Rape has always accompanied war. In the twentieth century alone there have been numerous examples occurring in countries as diverse as China, Germany, India and Rwanda.1 Believing it to be a natural consequence of conflict, military historians have tended to ignore that rape is also a weapon of war. This belief has prevented historians from looking seriously at the act of rape, both its meanings and its consequences. As it became clear in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s, rape is more than a by-product of war: the act itself provides a vital function in the destruction and disgrace of an enemy. However, what has not been as clear in the Balkans is the exact nature of the rapes which did occur there. Were the rapes perpetrated against Bosnian Muslims and Croats the result of an intentional and systemic policy ordered by Bosnian Serbian command, or were they random acts by soldiers, militias and a few sadistic leaders at the local level? This paper will attempt to answer this question through a case study of the Bosnian city of Foca, an area which first became synonymous with mass rape in 1992. By focusing on this singular example I will attempt both to contextualize mass rape and to answer some broader questions regarding its use in the former Yugoslavia. I will seek to determine why mass rape happened and how it came to be seen as a legitimate weapon of war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.




Iacobelli, T. (2009). The ‘Sum of Such Actions’: Investigating Mass Rape in Bosnia-Herzegovina through a Case Study of Foca. In Genders and Sexualities in History (pp. 261–283). Palgrave Macmillan.

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