Letter: Action to halt Serbian rapes

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The Independent Online
Sir: We, the undersigned, are ordinary women of Britain who are deeply concerned about the systematic rape of Bosnian Muslim women by Serbian soldiers, now taking place as a calculated policy of racial persecution as well as a brutal act of war.

We understand, on good authority, that soldiers are entering villages, towns and detention camps and committing rape with the compliance, and in some cases the encouragement, of their officers. Girls and women have died as a result, apart from the complete ruin of lives caused by the outrage to religious sensibilities. Some women are pregnant as a result of these actions, and there have apparently been cases of distraught women abandoning their newborn babies. The after-effects, the long-term casualties, do not bear thinking about. But they must and should be thought of - if possible, separately from the question of the civil war itself.

Mr Major and other leading members of the Government and Opposition are deciding there is no point in intervening in the Balkan struggle. Fifty years ago the then president of the United States and the British prime minister decided there was no point in taking military action to try to stop the massacres in the Nazi death camps, although, as later became inescapably clear, much could have been done and hundreds of thousands of lives saved by some relatively straightforward bombing missions.

It may or may not be worth risking our soldiers' lives in an attempt to stop Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian men killing each other. But we feel that the suffering women must be helped. It may be that many men still consider rape of minor importance as a war crime. It is up to women to make them reconsider.

We urge women everywhere to make their feelings known to Members of Parliament and to the press. Perhaps - only perhaps - if we protest enough, our leaders will be persuaded to act. There are a number of options open, of which the military option is only one. Every kind of pressure should be brought to bear upon the Serbs (the chief perpetrators) to stop this enormity. And those who are already victims must be given every possible sympathy and assistance, not least by their own communities.

Yours faithfully,

LYNNE REID BANKS, MARJOLIJN ANSTEY, PNINA WARBNER, BARBARA BRANDENBURGER, HILARY GRIFFITHS, SHEILA HORTON, BERNICE WESTON, ANNE CHRISTIE, JOAN RAPHAEL-LEFF, RUTH WORRALL, MORNA WATSON

Beaminster, Dorset

4 February

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