The systematic rape of women has been a regular feature of war, and in today's civil conflicts, rape is a systematic and brutal weapon used by armed groups against civilian populations. Though rape has occurred in mass and systematic forms previously, it was not as primary a weapon as it is in contemporary conflicts. Civil conflict has become the primary form of warfare around the world, employing smaller arms and less conventional tactics than traditional interstate wars. It is in this context that rape has become a central feature of contemporary war.
The aim of this article is to understand firstly the function of rape in contemporary conflict and then explain the wider systemic factors that construct sexual violence as an effective and strategic weapon of war. This article argues that the extreme forms of sexual violence being used in contemporary conflicts are a result of the nature and context of these conflicts. Using the Democratic Republic of Congo as a case study, this article argues that the extreme levels of sexual violence being witnessed in this conflict are a direct outcome of the changed nature of conflict, which is itself a consequence of processes of international political and economic globalization.