Progress for women over the past century has meant gaining new freedoms for themselves - the freedom to vote, the freedom for higher education, the freedom to chart careers, etc.
Now, in a landmark ruling by an international tribunal, women have gained new freedom from one of history's worst atrocities: the organized rape of women as an instrument of terror during a war.
Last week, the United Nations war-crimes court at The Hague convicted three Bosnian Serb soldiers for the systematic rape and torture of Muslim women and girls during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia.
The ruling, which included long sentences for the men, sets a precedent in international law by punishing mass rape during an armed conflict. Equally precedent-setting was the courage of 16 women who took the risk of testifying at the trial (although their voices and faces were disguised).
Military leaders everywhere should make the reasoning behind this ruling a part of every soldier's basic training.
With more international courts being set up to deal with crimes against humanity, this decision sends a signal that punishment awaits those who use rape as a weapon and don't honor a woman's freedom from sexual violence.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society