In This Review

Our Bodies, Their Battlefields: War Through the Lives of Women
Our Bodies, Their Battlefields: War Through the Lives of Women
By Christina Lamb
Scribner, 2020, 384 pp

In ancient times, victory in war frequently led to rape and plunder. Little has changed over the centuries. Soldiers rationalize rape as a form of punishment for those of the “wrong” nation or the “wrong” religion. Rape is often not the collateral damage of war but one of its instruments. It serves a strategic purpose: to coerce and humiliate. With extraordinary persistence, Lamb sought out contemporary victims and encouraged them to tell their stories about sexual slavery, routine abuse, trauma, and stigma. The book includes the accounts of “comfort women” taken by the Japanese from Korea before and during World War II, grandmothers in Argentina trying to locate the children of their daughters who were murdered by the ruling junta in the 1970s, Bengalis who were raped on an industrial scale by West Pakistani soldiers in 1971, Yazidis brutalized by the Islamic State (or ISIS) in 2014, Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014, and Rohingya women escaping to Bangladesh from Myanmar in 2017. This harrowing but important book is the work of an empathetic and tenacious chronicler.