Global Femicide: The Inhumane Actions of Ethiopian Military Forces Against Women & Children 

by Callie Raacke '25 on December 3, 2022
Opinion Staff


Content warning: This article discusses sexual assault and violence.

Global politics has always incorporated global femicide into its range of weaponry and military tactics; however, with modern panels, legislation, and the committee on human rights, global femicide should not be an option. Femicide, along with gender-based violence, is an atrocity that should not be employed as a military tactic. In international politics, this form of gender-based violence is used by governments to suppress certain groups or enemies into submission. A modern-day example of this atrocity is the Ethiopia-Tigray War, in which the Ethiopian military regime raped and abducted girls from Tigray, a region in Ethiopia. This tragedy exemplifies the popular social construct of commodifying women’s and children’s bodies for military control. All countries that commit these atrocities should be charged with War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.  

A femicide is a form of genocide that is enacted upon only women and girls. Femicide is defined as “the processes by which violence against women becomes socially acceptable and quotidian.” While it is true that femicide has become a socially acceptable means of wielding power in international relations, that does not mean that femicide is not genocide. For example, in regions like Tigray, women are brutally raped, murdered, and sold into sex slavery. Since our world has normalized this genocide of women, we must look to established laws and precedents to argue to the patriarchal society that these acts are inhuman and unjustifiable. In a world where male leaders instigate these egregious acts, we must play by their rules and rhetoric to make them understand that women deserve human dignity too.  

Ethiopia’s militia must be stopped, charged, and punished for their crimes. Amnesty International’s Secretary General states, “it’s clear that rape and sexual violence have been used as a weapon of war to inflict lasting physical and psychological damage on women and girls in Tigray. In addition, hundreds have been subjected to brutal treatment aimed at degrading and dehumanizing them.” This dehumanization should not go unchecked in any circumstance. When it comes to women and girls, it often goes unnoticed and unpunished. We all need to be made aware of the tragedies happening daily to fellow human beings and become un-desensitized to femicide. Women and girls deserve human dignity and should have never been used as a military tactic through dehumanization, psychological abuse, and removal of physical agency to win a war.

BBC did an interview with survivors of the femicide happening in Tigray. Their accounts are horrendous to recall, but they chose to share their stories and relive their trauma. For example, “a 39-year-old woman reported being seized by Eritrean soldiers while traveling with her two children. “Five of them raped me in front of my children,” she told Amnesty. “They used an iron rod, which is used to clean the gun, to burn me. They inserted pieces of metal into my womb… Then they left me on the street.” Her story and her children’s stories matter. The Eritrean soldiers psychologically tortured children by degrading and violating their mothers. First, they physically burned her to show dominance and to scare her and her children into submission. Then, they inflicted brutal pain and dehumanization in an intimate area of her body. Finally, they left her and her children to die in the street. They wanted to psychologically and physically torture, and leave them for dead to send a message to Tigray’s people. This woman’s story is one out of thousands that are told, but there are thousands we will never hear because the victims are dead or missing. This example begs the question of how gender-based violence against women and children became a “justifiable” option in war. 

Gender-based violence that dehumanizes the victims should have never been considered by the Ethiopian military regime because all humans deserve dignity. Unfortunately, the military has made it apparent that they believe women’s and girls’ bodies are commodifiable and destructible. Our global society does not value women’s lives enough to outright say that this is a form of injustice that must be stopped, so we must cite the U.N.’s definition of war crimes and crimes against humanity to argue that the Ethiopian military should be punished. Article 8 of the Rome Statute, concerning war crimes,  states that “Willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments; Committing outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, as defined in Article 7, Paragraph 2 (f), enforced sterilization or any other form of sexual violence also constituting a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions.” More legal and moral reasons also constitute that Ethiopia should be punished for inhumane war crimes against women and children of Tigray, but action must be taken to prevent such horrors from occurring.