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Why Women Are Targets of Boko Haram and ISIS


In all the battles waged by men, one of the most effective ways to destroy the enemy is to destroy its women. Rape and sexual abuse are wartime “strategies” as old as war itself.

Based in Nigeria, the radical Islamist sect has long proven its cowardice by targeting girls, including the 300 mostly Christian schoolgirls they kidnapped last year, inciting the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

For the young victims now carrying their abusers’ unborn children, returning to anything like normal life is impossible to imagine.

The same goes for those targeted by another radical Islamic group, this one spreading terror throughout the Middle East.

ISIS sells 9-year-old girls in slave bazaars. They are categorized. Stripped and shipped naked. Examined and distributed. Sold and passed around like meat.

ISIS “has institutionalized sexual violence and the brutalization of women as a central aspect of their ideology and operations,” a UN representative confirmed last week. On the ground, females are sold as sexual slaves for $43—with the price going up to $172 for the youngest (ages 1–9). The UN reports that one girl was “married” more than 20 times, each time forced to undergo surgery to “restore” her virginity.

Why does war and terror target women in particular? The reasons are as numerous as they are horrid. Sometimes a group intends to infect the enemy’s women with disease in order to destabilize a community.

One of the countless women raped during the Rwandan genocide recounts her abusers, Hutu men with HIV/AIDS, saying, “We are not killing you. We are giving you something worse. You will die a slow death.” Some women get sold as brides by their families to placate an insurgent group; others as sex slaves to fund a group’s own military campaign. And throughout history, systematic rape has been used to wipe out an enemy’s numbers and increase one’s own.