War produces unbelievable violence, it is seen as one of the world’s worst inventions, it generates death , misery and injustice just for the sake of incomprehension between people. One side of wars are normally hidden from us, they are modified or simply not discussed about, but they are there. Sex is one of them, sex has been used for centuries by warriors and soldiers to impose power to the enemy by cowardly targeting the weakest rivals, woman. Rape and sexual assault during military armed conflicts are described as psychological warfare, thus harming and affecting the enemies emotions and feelings more than it’s body.
Now when carried out thoroughly and as a systematic practice, rape and sexual slavery are now recognized under the United Nations Geneva Convention as crimes against humanity and serious war crimes. During the American civil war, reports of rape and sexual misconduct among the troops has not been highly publicized and this is mostly because there has not been many cases of this issue, although a few have been noted. Most confederate records were destroyed after the war, providing an ever harder understanding of the facts but experts believe that during the war only thirty martial court trials were held because or rape.
Mostly black woman suffered from sexual assault and black men, especially in the south were punished more severely than white men if they were found guilty of sexual misconduct. One of the main reasons why rape victims were not particularly high during the American civil war, was because prostitution among troops was fairly high. Mostly this was caused by a general depression throughout the United States, during the years of the conflict many woman who had no other way of maintaining themselves because their husbands were at war started to sell their bodies in exchange of money.
Also some historians say that woman wanted to spread venereal diseases to troops of the opposing side but this still remains unproved. The government at the time began to fear this new employment throughout the country which was rising so quickly, they installed laws and began to arrest all woman which practiced this new “profession”. An interesting fact was that the depreciative term “hooker” was taken from the Union general Joseph Hooker which was an important positive icon for northern troops thanks to his strategic and intelligent initiatives during the war.
The negative term was infamously attributed to him because of his headquarters in Virginia which was described by many soldiers as “a bar-room and brothel”. 1 As a consequence of the rise of prostitution, brothels in the United States started to become highly popular and by the final decades of the 19th century there were at least 450 brothels and 5000 prostitutes only in Washington D. C. Although prostitution was largely condemned by the government, these came up with the idea of creating government regulated brothels.
The United States was starting to face an epidemic of venereal disease, the Union army tried a generate a solution, government sanctioned prostitution, especially in area such as Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee, where prostitution rates were high. Nashville at first expelled women “of vile character,” and Colonel George Spalding, Marshall of Nashville, introduced a system of licensed and legal prostitution, with constant medical checkups and hospital treatment for venereal disease.
This system started to work perfectly and numbers of licensed prostitutes rose and fell with the transit of troops through the city, but the rate of disease declined roughly. In the nearby city of Memphis, a program of inspection, registration and licensing, met with related success until closed at the war’s end. A final report of the Surgeon General of the United States Army concluded that “while it does not encourage vice it prevents to a considerable extent its worst consequences.
As it was previously analyzed prostitution during armed conflicts is not uncommon and is many times it is not discussed as much as other controversial topics during wars. Divergences with firepower are considered by groups or nations as combat to a certain extent honorable and full of courage, if won, it brings glory and fame to the participant but if prostitution is seen as a major part of this, it covers up all the glory. It will also take away the honorable and courageous part of a war, bringing humiliation to it.