In recent news, a shocking video emerged from the northeastern state of Manipur, India, showing two women from the Kuki-Zo tribal community being paraded naked by a violent mob. This horrific incident sheds light on the disturbing weaponization of rape and sexual violence during ethnic clashes and conflicts in various regions around the world. The video, widely shared on social media, displays the women being dragged, groped, and assaulted by a group of men, highlighting the extreme vulnerability women face during such unrest.
The Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum claims women were also gang-raped in Manipur. The incident highlights the restriction of information flow by shutting down the internet in conflict-hit areas, causing delays in justice and hindering accountability for perpetrators. Women’s bodies are often battlegrounds during riots, causing severe consequences for their physical and psychological well-being. Rape and sexual assault have become weapons of violence and dominance during the conflict. Wartime sexual violence extends beyond isolated individual actions and is systematically used to assert political and military gains. The absence of justice delivery mechanisms and criminal infrastructure exacerbates the situation, allowing perpetrators to act with impunity.
The suffering of women in conflict zones goes far beyond the immediate physical violence they endure. Conflict disrupts societies, impacting women’s age at marriage and motherhood, forcing them into premature responsibilities, and robbing them of their rights to education and healthcare. Such adverse sociological effects perpetuate the cycle of gender subjugation and discrimination.
Instances of rape as a political tool to humiliate and establish dominance are not unique to Manipur or India. Numerous conflict zones worldwide have seen such brutal acts committed against women. From Myanmar to Ukraine, women have been subjected to violence, sexual assault, and abuse during periods of civil unrest and ethnic clashes.
Women’s access to fundamental rights is frequently eclipsed and overlooked in political debates and actions in conflict zones. Cynthia Cockburn, a British professor, observed astutely that gender can be both present and absent in common perception. The terrible occurrence in Manipur serves as a vivid reminder of this.
The Manipur events highlight the urgent need to address women’s plight in conflict zones. The global community must work together to protect and empower women during the unrest, promoting justice and dignity for women worldwide.